Wait, is this the one where Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a loser?
One of our finest actors and his own worst enemy, Hoffman has ghettoized himself lately in cloying sad-sack roles. Here, he pushes the boundaries of schmaltz, making his directing debut with a desperately cutesy adaptation of a play by longtime pal Bob Glaudini that reeks of condescension.
At his borderline-autistic, mouth-breathing worst, Hoffman stars as a stunted idiot who grows silly dreadlocks and gets shoved into blind dates with Amy Ryan’s cuckoo, damaged wallflower. Both are ostensibly adults who live in New York City, yet act like brain-damaged children. Hoffman, for example, listens to the same reggae song on an endless loop, because “it’s positive,” and somehow at middle age he has never learned how to work a stove.
Hoffman’s antisocial hyperventilator whimpers a lot, deciding for no explicable reason that he must learn how to swim in order to impress this oddball woman who clearly wants to have sex with him. (At the movie’s cringiest, she speculates aloud about “being ready for penis penetration.”)
There’s some frank drug use and freewheeling infidelity by co-stars John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega, but these characters all overdose on writerly quirks, never once acting remotely like recognizable human beings. Hoffman seems to be aiming for the raw, childlike heartache of P.T. Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (a film in which he happened to give a great performance) yet lacks the chops to create a context in which the loony behavior makes any sense.
Hoffman is capable of so many shadings, it’s a shame to see him constantly falling back on same schmucky skill-set as of late. Ditto for Ryan, who has delivered a handful of electrifying turns in recent years, yet here recycles her tremulous goofball routine from The Office. I have an enormous amount of affection for these two, but Jack Goes Boating made me wish they’d both drown.