Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Jack Goes Boating

Film #448


A limo driver’s blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.

Year 2, Film #83

THE REVIEW: Jack Goes Boating is based on a play by the same name and this fact is very apparent when watching the film. I’ve seen a few films-based-on-plays before and there seems to be a recurring theme that permeates through them all: they’re very small, reserved, and introspective. In this film, there are four main characters and one main location where almost everything takes place and for most of the film it feels frustratingly slow. While the character development is very refreshing and the amount of time you spend with them helps you really get to know them, it isn’t very engaging and there’s not much to entertain you. However, it does come together at the end in one big resolution to a conflict you weren’t aware was building slowly this whole time.

For the majority of the film, not much really happens. Or rather, not much that is readily apparent. Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is friends with Clyde (John Ortiz) and his wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who try and set him up with their friend Connie (Amy Ryan). Everything is slow and lethargic. There are no big scenes or moments, no overly funny jokes or deadly serious moments that bring on a range of emotions. No big action scenes or anything that calls attention to the characters at all. Everything is presented to you matter-of-factly and in a simple, unobtrusive way. And while this makes it unlike the majority of Hollywood films we see nowadays, that doesn’t make it inherently bad. Where the film goes bad is that it always seems like something is just about to happen around the corner. Instead of fully committing to the simple, character development and have that be the basis for the entertainment of the film, there’s an underlying conflict that’s present. So you’re expecting a more traditional film that moves at a brisk pace, but instead, you get a slower film that might be better if it embraced that.

While there is this difference in the film’s focus, the payoff at the end of the film is quite rewarding. Jack spends the whole film learning new things to try and impress Connie, including cooking her a homemade dinner; something no one had ever done for her before. There’s also building tension between Clyde and Lucy as we learn about affairs the two had with other people and the result it has on their relationship. Until the ending though, these developments are, as I’ve said, quite toned down; not much really happens. So while the ending was shocking in terms of how unexpected it was, it was also satisfying. It showed that what was going on meant something more than just some goings-on. These characters have actual character and their interactions meant something.

Jack Goes Boating is an interesting film in the sense that it’s very unusual and atypical of a standard film. Being based off a play seems to give it a different mindset compared to one that starts out as a screenplay. For the most part the film lacks a certain focus and appeal with a disjointed approach to its characters and conflict. A surprising ending does tie up some of these moments and give the film a sense of purpose, but in many ways it’s too little too late. There isn’t an ongoing mystery or questions that are solved by this surprise ending. Instead the ending shows you that there was a conflict that you didn’t know existed.

THE RATING: 2 out of 5