Monday, February 7, 2011

Jack Goes Boating - Home Video Review




Release Date: September 17, 2010

I am always drawn to films like this one, where it deals with a man adrift in a world where he has just been living his life as best he can until the day he meets the woman that changes everything about him, but for the better. Jack Goes Boating follows this train of thought to a "T" but gets us to the somewhat inevitable conclusion in a nontraditional way which only helps make it that much more dam likable.



Review Vital Stats:
Format: DVD
Player: Xbox 360
Picture Quality: Standard Definition
Sound Quality: Standard 5.1 Surround

Biases:
Loves: Unconventional love stories, Amy Ryan
Likes: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Neutral: Films adapted from stage plays
Hates: Missing good films



Jack Goes Boating is the feature film directorial debut of Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman, a film based off the stage play of the same name written by Bob Glaudini (both him and Hoffman collaborated on the film's screenplay). Hoffman is one of those rare leading men where he doesn't have the good looks or physicality that most other leading actors depend on but he still pulls it off each and every time he is up for bat. Whether he plays a crazy hipster in Twister, a self loathing sex addict in Happiness or a ruthless villain in Mission Impossible 3 he has always commanded the screen with every word he utters. While he is well beyond a proven actor with an Oscar to show for it, I was intrigued to see what he could bring to a film from behind the camera as well as in front of it. So I picked up my set of oars and decided to go on a little boat trip with Jack & company to see what he had in store for me.

Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a fairly simple and easy going guy. He works at his Uncle's place as a limo driver with his best friend Clyde (John Ortiz) and considers himself to be a pretty positive guy despite having a lot of negative things happening around him. Clyde and his wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) are his world, without them he would literally have nothing to hold on to which may seem pathetic at first but the reality of the situation is anything but. Lucy works at a funeral home and thinks the new girl Connie (Amy Ryan) would be a perfect fit for Jack so she decides to have everyone over for dinner to see if they hit it off. It is kind of an understatement to say that the proceedings are just a little bit awkward with Jack not knowing what to say half the time and Connie saying too much the other half. Strangely and ironically enough both Jack and Connie feel a connection through all the awkwardness and before he knows it Jack commits himself to go boating with Connie once the summer has arrived.

Jack and Connie hit it off pretty well.

The only problem with this is of course that Jack cannot swim and is afraid to go out on a boat. Luckily though they are still in the middle of winter and he has a lot of time to get prepared for his big day out on the lake with Connie. Clyde being the good friend that he is takes it upon himself to train Jack on the intricacies of swimming so that he doesn't disappoint Connie. The truly ironic part though all is that while Clyde and Lucy are trying their hardest to get Jack and Connie together, their own marriage is beginning to fall apart which leads to secrets being revealed, friends questioning each others actions as well as some pretty hefty confrontations.This is a story about real people with real problems that are just trying to be the best person they can be and not always succeeding.

This film is a documentation of the human condition, how we as a species deal with pain, distrust, love, and loneliness. It isn't an easy thing to watch a long time marriage fail and it is even harder when the married couple is the only thing you have in the world. Jack deals with it the best he can but he is not a man that has answers to any of the problems he or his friends are faced with, he just wants everything to be OK. He takes his positive attitude everywhere he goes, literally. He has a cassette player he carries around with him filled with reggae music that he listens to on a regular basis. Jack wants to believe so much in what that music tells him that he even goes so far as to give himself some honest to goodness dreadlocks that are hidden under his beanie most of the time. His life has been pretty basic without much to complain about or celebrate up to this point.

Clyde and Lucy try to have some alone time.

When the time comes that his friends introduce him to Connie though it is probably the most positive thing he has had in his life in a very long time. Connie is a fragile and soft spoken woman, someone that appears to have had many negative things occur in her life, just listen to the story about her father being in a coma. Her job at the funeral home isn't going too well due to her problems with the jobs requirements, which include having to deal with her boss making passes at her. Jack and Connie are the epitome of two lost and lonely souls that have finally come together to make a whole. Jack needs someone in his life to give him purpose, someone that he can love unequivocally. Connie needs someone to bring some positivity into her life, someone that can and will make her feel special. In spite of their emotional baggage they find something in each other that transcends the usual blind date syndrome, they find love.

I think that was what I connected with the most, the idea that such a simple and real person as Jack can find his soul mate even after years upon years of having only himself. It wasn't hard for me to identify with Jack and I will be the first to admit that your mileage with the film will rest mostly on how you feel about him as a character. I to am alone in the world, as in I have no significant other, and have reached that age where it seems that I never will. Films like this give me hope, hope in the miracles of life and that no matter how bleak your place in the world may seem that your shining light could be around that next corner. Jack personifies the nice guy that finishes last but instead of coming in last he just took his time getting to the finish line.

Clyde busy showing Jack how to swim.

Another aspect of Jack's life that I sympathized with was his friends Clyde and Lucy. The two closest friends I have in the world also happen to be a married couple. While Clyde and Lucy aren't quite into the same stuff as my friends are (they don't set up a hookah in the middle of the living room for everyone to hit off of and they are most certainly don't snort cocaine) but they do look out for me much in the same way Jack is looked out for by them. When Jack needs to learn how to swim Clyde doesn't hesitate to show him. When Jack needs to learn how to cook both Clyde and Lucy help guide him despite the ramifications it has on their marriage. It is honestly quite heartwarming to see how both Clyde and Lucy pull out all the stops to help Jack in any way they possibly can which once again reflects how I see my friends as well.

I suppose this films greatest asset is how real all the characters feel. The simple fact that I was able to relate to so much of what is on screen is a testament to the writing, directing and most definitely the acting on display. I have already spoken my peace about Hoffman but everyone else here also deserves their accolades. Amy Ryan has been a favorite actress of mine since her days on The Wire and not once has she ever put in a performance where she didn't give it her all and this is no different. There is a moment early on in the film where she is laid up in the hospital after an incident and Jack goes to visit her. She has clearly been through a traumatic situation and when Jack puts his headphones over her ears so she can listen to his music to help put her at ease, the range of emotions that Amy Ryan expresses are complex and heartbreaking, I dare you to not get a little emotional.

Jack and Connie get a little cozy together.

Both Ortiz and Vega do a superb job in their roles as loving friends to Jack while also going through some deep emotional breakdowns of their own. Ortiz does a great job coming off as that friend who always has his friend's back despite what tragedies he may be facing in his own personal life. As he continually gives Jack advice on how to proceed with Connie you always get this glimpse that he is not quite as happy as he may seem, either from a simple look or the odd grin from time to time. Vega similarly provides a very complicated and heartfelt performance as a woman that knows she has sinned but just can't bring herself to fully accept the blame for it. Neither of the two are bad people, they are both troubled and imperfect...they are human and because of that they have plenty of issues to work through.

This is one of the better directorial debuts I have had the pleasure of viewing. Hoffman isn't showy, he let's the scenes play out in a realistic manner and let's his actors do their thing. The film is very talky (it's based off a stage play for goodness sake) so I would warn anyone interested in it to be prepared for that. But also be prepared to go through a lot of emotions over the course of the film and that last half hour at the dinner party is particularly draining. Had I caught this when it was released I would have placed it in my top films of the year but due to scheduling and personal life constraints it just never happened. I do think it is more worthy of praise than another independent film that has making the award show rounds from last year and feel it is a shame this was overlooked, which I accept some of that blame. Without further ado though I give this my official stamp of approval and say...

CHECK IT OUT IMMEDIATELY



It's hookah time!


What's on the disc?

Pickings are slim but for an Indie film that got very little attention I am not really all that surprised. I would have loved to have had a commentary track from Hoffman though, oh well. What's here is hardly a value but at least you get something.

Jacks New York (4:00.) -This is a quick look at the production design and how they were able to find some not so typical locations around New York to film in. Good, but short.

From the Stage to the Big Screen (4:30) - Exactly what you would expect, a quick look at translating the play to the world of film.

Deleted Scenes (2:00.) - Two scenes, one of Connie riding the train and being hit on by some random guy and the other with Jack riding the train watching some slob tear through a bag of chips. I honestly don't even know how these would have fit in the film. Needless to say they were cut for good reason.

Theatrical Trailer  -The films theatrical trailer.


Blu-ray                             DVD
Jack Goes Boating [Blu-ray]        Jack Goes Boating
        

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