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Monday, March 24, 2014

"Jack Goes Boating", Indie Movie Sinking

Jack Goes Boating

I've been delaying this review, for personal reasons, but mainly because I wanted to put some distance between Philip Seymour Hoffman's death and writing the following lines. ""Jack Goes Boating" was his only movie as a director and, needless to say, I was hoping for the best. Unfortunately, it is not the case. Something that hurts.

"Jack Goes Boating" is an odd relationship's drama, adapting the 2007 play, directed by Peter Dubois, where Hoffman starred in. He and two of the three other lead stage actors (John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega) also reprise their roles in the movie. The story itself is pretty simple. Jack (Hoffman) is an extremely shy, socially awkward (anti-social?) man whose married friends Clyde (Ortiz) and Lucy (Rubin-Vega) arrange a blind date with Connie (Amy Ryan), a woman with even bigger social problems than him (mental illness?). There's a connection between the two, one that impulses Jack to take risks in his life and try to learn doing things that would please her. 

Jack's character is ultimately sweet and, to some extent, optimistic. He realizes the interest Connie has in him, and that makes him change. The screenplay puts the weight in what look as mundane activities, like learning to swim or cook (eventually also going boating), but the spectator feels compelled for what it seems a conscious transformation of a curious man trying to improve, get out of his extremely lonely and narrow world. For love. Add some fascinating scenes at the pool, the special lightning the snowy city seems to have, and we could be in front of an odd sequel of the wonderful "Punch-Drunk Love". That's not the case.

Why? Because this is an actor's movie (it should be) but I couldn't believe them, not to mention be engaged, with any of the characters. Characters are exaggeratedly closed-off emotionally and we don't know anything about their past, so the spectator lost them (imo). To my view, this is an example of a movie on which we clearly cross the line between the much needed ellipsis to an under-defined, insufficient script. Trying to be more precise: with the amount of information we have while watching, to me Jack and Connie have serious emotional and mental issues, but that's left wide open. "The normal couple" that helps Jack, Clyde and Lucy, soon reveal as not so normal, as they have been struggling with pretty bad relationship problems themselves, but again, the spectator is left to fill the plot holes by itself. For me, it was completely unbelievable. And although this could be just a personal impression, the lack of engagement with the actors provokes the disappointing feeling of watching a very slow, dragged, lifeless movie with very occasional sparks (the foursome dinner, the friends conversation inside a car) and what could have been a very interesting take on sentimental relations.

To my understanding, "Jack Goes Boating" tries so hard to be quirky. It's "indie" in that annoying way that makes a vast amount of people avoid this sort of "small" movies. In this case, I would blame a script that looks too secluded and airless, relying too much on the physical presence of the characters, as it we were still in front of the original play at the theater. I still owe you a last discovery, a last amazing performance Philip.  

SCORE: 4,75/10

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