Jack goes boating and Philip Seymour Hoffman goes directing

Jack Goes Boating (15)

Director Philip Seymour Hoffman Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega

89 mins


When Actors Direct is a title to strike fear into the hearts of audiences.

Of course, there are exceptions (Mel Gibson, George Clooney). But, when most actors move behind the cameras, they invariably come up with actors’ films which are all actors and no film. It’s the fine art of not seeing the wood for the tree or, perhaps, the meal for the ham.

Philip Seymour Hoffman always struck me as the most precious of actors and his debut is the actoriest of actors’ films. It’s not just based on a play but on a four-hander character piece which played Off-Broadway and is full of the kind of awkward, unglamorous characters and raw emotions which actors just love to play. And it’s quite wonderful.

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Shy, tubby chauffeur

The first thing that strikes you is how much like a Mike Leigh film it is. Jack, who would surely be a Tim Spall role in the Leigh version, is a shy, tubby chauffeur who is fixed up with shy, awkward Connie (Ryan). As they grow hesitantly together, the couple that brought them together, Cylde and Lucy (Ortiz and Rubin-Vega), are rather more vigorously moving apart.

Like the best Leigh, it flirts with caricature but avoids it and is genuinely funny. It is filmed theatre but PSH handles it rather well. He’s also terribly good in the title role.

Nobody does sad sack like Hoffman and few are prepared to leave themselves looking quite so vulnerable on the screen.

His Jack is a kindred spirit to the hypochondriac playwright Caden he played in Synecdoche, New York. When you see him in the swimming pool scenes with his goggles on and his pale, flabby skin, he seems totally exposed, as defenceless as a baby.