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Jack Goes Boating

Year: 2010
Production Co: Big Beach Films
Director: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Writer: Robert Glaudini
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan

Directorial efforts by great actors are a mixed bag. I've never seen a frank answer to why such a great performer like Ed Norton would want to do a hokey romantic comedy like Keeping the Faith, and now that Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't with us, we'll never get an answer to what interested him about this story that starts nowhere and doesn't really get anywhere.

The characters who populate it are so socially retarded – particularly Hoffman himself as Jack – it appears some of them have legitimate mental illness. He plays a limo driver who falls in love so fearfully with mousy Connie (Ryan) it's like he's spent his life in an asylum or jail, and that's the whole story.

His friend and co-worker Clyde goes through an infidelity crisis with his girlfriend Lucy. Clyde teaches Jack to swim in preparation to a promised date with Connie on a rowboat. Lucy's lover, a chef, teaches him to cook so he can make Connie dinner, and little of any consequence comes out of any of it.

When the night of the big dinner comes and is spoiled when they group sitting around getting high as the meal burns in the oven, Jack reacts so violently out of character I wondered if the story was finally going to show its hand and turn out to be about a psychotic former murderer, but that went nowhere either.

The whole thing is very stagey, which explains its stageplay origins, but it's so stodgy and plodding I spent the entire running time wishing for a Transformer or alien invasion. It takes all types though – you can see just as many reviews praising the nuanced performance and riveting obstacles and problems faced by the characters.

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