Friday, September 23, 2011
Jack Goes Boating
Jack Goes Boating is a somber buzzkill. It does not create the buzz it kills, but is more than willing to quell whatever spark of expectation you bring in. It is a romantic film only in that it deals with romance. I can appreciate the dichotomy of presenting two couples at either end of their romantic entanglements. Yet the struggling couple is too busy and frantic to be entertaining. I don't really like any of the characters. Even the film's protagonist, Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman pulling double-duty as director and lead actor), becomes difficult to root for as he lets himself become mired in his friends' infidelities. His new romance deserves more of an featured oomph, but is overshadowed by what the filmmakers hope to get across about the entirety of fidelity, love, and their respective behaviors. The humor that was promised was almost nonexistent. There are attempts that don't fail miserably, but I couldn't find a chuckle in my body. Some of the quirks found within the characters are amusing, but I couldn't bring myself to smile the whole time. I found the tone to be quite somber. Even as the quartet of performers reach a rolling boil during a climatic dinner, there's a rain cloud hanging over the entire affair. The film is based on a stage play, but I wonder if seeing the production on stage would change my perception. In truth, some of the cinematic interludes are the most involving. Jack learns through visualizing swimming and cooking. While those moments are a tad out of place, they certainly add some artistry to the film. Also glaring out of place is the film's indie hipster soundtrack. All the songs chosen (save Jack's motivational reggae) are beautiful, but don't fit the film. Some equally subdued Simon and Garfunkel or even Elliott Smith would have been perhaps contrived or overly familiar but more appropriate. There is nothing hip or cool happening on screen. In fact, there isn't really much worth mentioning happening on screen. There are some truths to what the film has to say. Some of the resulting conclusions this new couple comes to are to be admired and embraced, but I was hoping for more of the nuance I have come to expect from Mister Hoffman and his leading lady.
"Ultimately, though, Jack Goes Boating is too much of a banal thing. Jack's a good guy, and you root for him all the way to the end, but, wistfully, that doesn't make him an any more interesting everyday Joe than he is." - Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle