American Independent cinema has, over the last decade, built an image for itself based on a foundation of awkward, damaged, middle class nobodies who appear deeply disenfranchised with their seemingly mundane lives. Perhaps it’s a sign of the countries zeitgeist, both disassociating itself from the greedy upper classes who still cling to their Darwinian social stature beliefs (which died out at roughly the same time as the eighties), whilst simultaneously ignoring its worryingly high level of unemployment and the ever increasing wealth divide...
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s name is as synonymous with this evolution of independent cinema as Jean-Luc Godard is to the French New Wave. He’s a man all too familiar with playing vulnerable, awkward characters that seem to radiate with a certain fear of rejection, so obviously the perfect choice to not just star but also direct Jack Goes Boating, a film stepped in emotional repression and self confusion.
This slow burning portrait of the ‘real’ New York City, acts as an accurate depiction of this vibrant cities true social economic standard of living. Its subject matter is two quintessentially middle class couples at opposite ends of their respective relationship’s lifespan. Jack (Hoffman) and Connie (Amy Ryan) are two shy forty something’s, seemingly lost amongst the chaos of modern life but are lucky enough to have found someone with whom to share their troubled journey. Ironically they’re introduced to each other by Clyde and Lucy, an unstable married couple whose faltering marriage is beginning to crumble under the stress of years of unspoken issues and grievances.
These paralleled stories depicting both the birth and death of a relationship culminate in a contrasting mix of emotional highs and lows that ultimately turns this subtle tale of the comforting qualities of love (albeit set amongst an atmosphere of its potentially devastating after effects) into something with a level of hidden depth rarely seen within modern cinema. Adapted from a lucrative west end theatre show of the same name, the producers decision to maintain the wealth of the original cast is obviously the key element to this films overall success. With each actor having previously spent months performing as the same character, their performances explode with an unbridled level of realism that’s hard not to find yourself truly immersed in.
The film’s only real failing is its attempts to add an element of ‘quirkiness’ to the overall feel of the film - as if it feels it needs this to truly be accepted by an indie-art-house audience. Unfortunately it never seems to gel with the film’s more successful poignant moments and disappointingly prevents Hoffman’s new role as film director being quite the success many hoped it to be. Despite this Jack Goes Boating certainly an assured debut which promises a bright future ahead.