Jack Goes Boating – review

The one word that comes to mind when thinking of this film is ‘quirky’, but I have a feeling people detest that word. So henceforth, that word has been vetoed. But let’s get things straight, this film is proudly indie and (*thinks for a second*) eccentric. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s my cup of tea, and I like to drink tea, so deal with it!

Jack (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a shy introverted limo driver who likes to listen to reggae and fancies himself as a rastafarian. Hoffman, a white 46 year-old man, playing a geeky guy with dreadlocks, who stresses the importance of a ‘positive vibe’, is sheer genius. He’s an endearing character who everybody can love. I defy anyone who dislikes him. Clyde (John Ortiz), is a fellow limo driver and Jack’s only friend. They don’t seem like two characters who would get along in real life, but that’s the beautiful thing about their relationship. I feel Jack comes from a middle-class background and has trundled through life without any spectacular achievements, but thanks to his Uncle Frank (Richard Petrocelli), he’s got a job. He met Clyde who took pity on him, but now their friendship goes beyond pity. Clyde, thanks to his wife, sets up a date for Jack with equally eccentric Connie (Amy Ryan). Thus an awkward but sincere relationships emerges, and this is the line the narrative takes which is juxtaposed beside the crumbling marriage of Clyde and his wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). I enjoyed watching Jack and Connie ‘getting it together’, whether it be awkward intimate moments or awkward silences. It was awkward in a good way, not in a bad way – see Cyrus.

There is nothing flamboyant about the cinematography, it is simple, static, focused. A flat surface to build off, it allows the characters to come to life without any distraction. The shots are not boring though, the scenes in the swimming pool are fantastic. The POV shots of Clyde teaching Jack the basics of breathing underwater are brilliant and remind me of one my favourite shows – Peep Show. I’ve recently become more and more fascinated with camera positioning, so I thought I would highlight one thing I noticed. After a few beers, Clyde chats to Jack about his wife’s infidelities in the front seat of the limo, and normally a scene like this would be shot from the front or side-on so you can see the emotion on their faces, but instead it is shot from behind in the back seat. From this point of view, you see the uncomfortable aura in the air. Neither Clyde or Jack look at each other as they both struggle to articulate their true feelings. Snow splatters on the windscreen, silence ensues, Clyde says something like “Anyway, I’ve told you now”, and then the windscreen wipers come on and wipe the snow away. Beautiful. Great scene. Anyway, I’m probably boring you.

I was going to say that this is the type of film which won’t win any awards, but you should still watch it, but it has won an award. Hoffman won ‘Best Actor’ at the Chlotrudis Awards. Yes, I’ve never heard of the Chlotrudis Awards, but I’ve looked it up and it’s a real thing. Hoffman in his directorial début has created a strong character-based story which is very funny and likeable, bravo sir! Not a classic for sure, but when you judge this against other indie rom-coms like Cyrusor Youth in Revolt or Beginners, you’ll realise it’s real worth. Good piece of genre film making.

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