It was only a matter of time before Philip Seymour Hoffman decided to direct. He has gained enough cred in the business to warrant giving him a chance, but it is slightly shocking that he chose to make his debut with a romantic comedy. Did anyone else see that coming? His film, Jack Goes Boating is a movie version of a play by the same name. Hoffman actually played Jack in the off-Broadway production. He brought along two of his stage co-stars as well, and got Amy Ryan to play his leading lady. Not too shabby for his first cast.
The story, yes, is a romantic comedy, but not the kind you’re thinking. It is, of course, centered around Jack. He’s a quiet, mostly unremarkable man, with few friends, and even less family. The two friends he does have are Clyde (John Ortiz), and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). They’re good friends to him, and seem to have it together. They match him up with another slightly odd acquaintance of theirs, Connie (Amy Ryan). The two start a strange romance that buds quiet nicely, while at the same time, Lucy and Clyde’s marriage is deteriorating as truths come out about infidelities and betrayals of trust.
The play is written by Bob Glaudini, and was adapted for the screen by him as well. It’s full of witty and fresh dialog and fantastic scenes. It’s an optimistic view on the joys of loving and being loved, despite all kinds of obstacles. It should come as no surprise that something this sturdy comes from Hoffman, who provides great pleasure in watching him get lost in his character. There’s not much Hoffman does that’s less than superb. While it seems, in the beginning, that the film was going to take a turn closer to the tone of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Hoffman manages to keep this story hopeful, and bright. His direction style is confidant, and well-toned.
The world was introduced to Ryan’s comedy during her short stint as Holly on The Office. You’ll be pleased to know that she’s just as funny here, and makes personal manias endearing, and even sexy. In one of the film’s most charming moments, she gently explains to Jack her humble requirements when they decide to make love for the first time. It instantly reminds me of a similar scene between Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in Punch-Drunk Love. I don’t think it’s too high of praise to compare Jack to the P.T. Anderson film. The optimism found here is refreshing, without sacrificing a charismatic, and intriguing plot.
Refreshingly optimistic without idealization, Jack Goes Boating gives us a fantastic cast and manages to be charming and witty without sacrificing integrity.