Monday, February 7, 2011

Jack Goes Boating

This is a fine example of what good acting can do with an average script. We have seen this movie done a number of times where one couple is falling out of love at the same time that another couple is falling in love. In less than 90 minutes Philip Seymour Hoffman in his debut as a director gives a fresh look at this simple story. Hoffman delivers his acting performance in the title role of Jack with the dominance that he is accustomed to. He is set up on a blind date by his friends Clyde and Lucy played by John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega, respectively. His date is the adorable Amy Ryan (Connie) who has some baggage of sorts to deal with. As perfect as Connie and Jack are for each other their friends Clyde and Lucy are growing apart and unintentionally try to ruin the chances of Connie and Jack.

This movie works because of the acting performances, without it the movie is just sub-par. Hoffman shows the emotion of lonely, awkward, man in his late 30s that has become socially removed from the norm. He hides in his everyday life through his music where he can silence the daily chatter that annoys him. His chemistry with Amy Ryan is terrific as they play off each other in similar ways to how she works in "the Office" with Michael Scott. Amy Ryan plays the broken, fragile, woman so well and when she hurts in the movie you want to give her a koala bear (yeah never mind). As happy as these two characters can be, it is the counterpoint delivered by John Ortiz as a jealous husband with trust issues; and Daphne Rubin-Vega as a wife that is living with the guilt of decisions she made over the years. As they grasp for each other they inadvertently slice through what Jack and Connie are creating.

As a director, Hoffman chose interesting camera shots that bleed in and out of his imagination as he visualizes how things can be done perfectly. One sequence that stands out is while he is learning to swim he is crossing a bridge and stops. Looking out over the passing cars below he visualizes himself gliding through the water. When he opens his eyes you see a glimmer of life in this lonely character, a smile gently passes over his face and you trust this guy. You want him to be happy.

As a complete movie this one gets 4 Quacks. I missed it in the theaters and it looks like the Oscars didn't appreciate it as much, but I think that Hoffman could have received an acting nomination.

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