The beginning of Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s Jack Goes Boating (Overture, 9.17) “isn’t terribly made or horribly off its game,” I wrote last January. “It establishes an amiable, easy-going tone with dabs of low-key humor, but I really, really didn’t want to hang with Hoffman’s Jack, an oafish Manhattan limousine driver. Jack is pudgy — okay, fat — and rumpled and conversationally slow as molasses. He wears a dim and drowsy expression, and seems borderline stupid and to some degree emotionally shut down.
“‘I don’t like this guy — he’s too doltish,’ I muttered to myself. And the humor, as I heard it, conveyed a kind of low-energy flatness, reflecting the perceptions of people with somewhat diminished capacities.
“And then came a scene between Hoffman and Amy Ryan, portraying a plain girl named Connie whom Jack is interested in, and costars John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega. It ends with Hoffman telling Ortiz that Ryan wants to go boating sometime, and Hoffman explaining that this might not work because he can’t swim. And then Ortiz mentions that he could teach Hoffman to swim at an indoor pool he’s been to.
“That was it — I wasn’t going to watch Hoffman in bathing trunks. He’s been getting more and more corpulent lately, and it just makes me feel badly for the guy. I want him to be Capote-sized for the rest of his life. I’m sorry. I’m really not trying to be an asshole. It’s quite possible that Jack Goes Boating will be called a decent-enough film by critics and festivalgoers I respect. I just didn’t want to be in that world so I left. I’m sorry.”