Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan are a convincing, humorous pairing in "Jack Goes Boating." Hoffman also directs. (Overture Films)
It's the acting that floats "Jack Goes Boating."
Yes, Robert Glaudini's adaptation of his own play is serviceable, if a touch shrill at times. And Philip Seymour Hoffman's direction is appropriately direct.
But Hoffman the director can't compete with Hoffman the film's star. And he can pretty much just stand in wonder at the layers co-star Amy Ryan brings to the party. The woman is a natural wonder.
Hoffman plays Jack, a New York City chauffeur whose fellow chauffeur and best buddy Clyde (John Ortiz) is hooking him up with Connie (Ryan), a shy co-worker of Clyde's wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega).
They have take-out over at Clyde and Lucy's place, and although the talk is awkward and hesitant at times, Jack and Connie hit it off. It's winter and Connie hopes to go boating come summer -- row boating, that is -- so Jack resolves to take swimming lessons.
Unfortunately, as Jack and Connie's love is on the rise, Clyde and Lucy are slowly falling apart. And that's the film's essence -- one elevator going up, the other down.
Hoffman the director tries his best to expand the story from its stage roots; but the script is the script, and the movie is mainly building toward the sort of explosive dinner party scene that playwrights both adore and abuse.
Still, the sweet build of Jack and Connie's relationship, especially as things move haltingly toward physicality, is great, emotionally honest stuff topped with fine comedy.
The actors -- slight tics, verbal stumbles and sweet notions -- make you love these characters and their clumsy romance.
Because if these two can fumble their way to true love, then can't we all?