Friday, October 1, 2010

A modest movie about folks on the fringe

Philip Seymour Hoffman moves behind the camera for his first directorial effort, a big-screen adaptation of Bob Glaudini's play Jack Goes Boating. Hoffman also plays the movie's title character, a New York limo driver who's accustomed to steering toward the lonely side of life. This sometimes amusing helping of sad-sack cinema is best appreciated for its acting, not only from Hoffman but from Amy Ryan (as a possible love interest for Jack) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (as the girlfriend of his best friend and fellow limo driver (John Ortiz). The story follows Hoffman's Jack as he develops a relationship with Ryan's Connie, and also begins to illuminate the troubled relationship between Ortiz's Clyde and Rubin-Vega's Lucy. Set in Manhattan, Jack Goes Boating offers Hoffman an opportunity to try to liberate the material from the confines of the stage. Presumably that's why he adds underwater shots at a Harlem pool where Clyde tries to teach Jack how to swim. Such touches don't entirely do the job, and Jack Goes Boating becomes a modest exploration of the isolated worlds of fringe characters, all of whom need some love. We haven't seen this particular iteration before, but it sometimes feels as if we had.

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