Jack Goes Boating

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Jack Goes Boating Movie Poster Image
Touching story about relationships is for mature viewers.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 89 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The four main characters all seem to be striving toward bettering themselves and overcoming their weaknesses. In some cases they help one another and encourage one another. The hero, Jack, needs the most help but comes the farthest during the course of the film. Unfortunately, Jack can do nothing to help his married friends with relationship trouble, and they don't appear to be addressing the situation in the healthiest of ways. Not all of the movie's problems are solved.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack begins the film as a near emotional cripple; he barely speaks and lives a bare-bones existence. After he's introduced to a girl, he tries to make himself a better person. He learns to swim -- so that he can take her boating several months later -- and to cook. He also learns to overcome his shyness and sadness to be himself. The drawback is that he needs so much work that he never appears to be available to offer any help to his friend; one comes up while the other goes down.


A married couple shoutshateful things at each other during a heated argument. A woman is attacked on a subway, but the attack isn't shown -- viewers see a man approaching her and then her bloody face sometime later (the images are only mildly graphic; she goes to work before going to the hospital).


A man and a woman are seen in bed together, having a frank discussion about sex (their fears and hopes). In a later scene, they fall into bed together, finally ready for the deed. A married couple deals with issues of infidelity, and past sex acts are discussed. There are a couple of inappropriate workplace touching scenes, and a woman describes an incident in which a man "rubbed up against her." General sex talk throughout.


Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Also hear "bitch," and "God" (used as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Heavy, seemingly casual use of cigarettes, wine, beer, pot, and cocaine during the course of the movie. One character smokes cigarettes regularly and uses cocaine once. All of the characters drink wine with dinner several times. During a dinner party, one character brings out a hookah pipe. All of the characters get so stoned that the food cooking in the kitchen burns.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this character-based drama (which marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who also stars) is poignant and touching but meant for adults thanks to its frequent sex talk, drinking and drug use, and language (especially "f--k"). Hoffman's character is somewhat inspirational, pulling himself out of a sad existence when he meets a girl and trying to improve himself so he deserves her. But at the same time, his best friend's marriage is falling apart. Teens may not be interested in this quiet story, but adults who are already Hoffman fans may appreciate it.

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What's the story?

Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) works for his uncle as a limo driver, as does his best friend, Clyde (John Ortiz). Jack is a sad, quiet, shy type who isn't very social. During a New York winter, Clyde's wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), sets him up on a blind date with a co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan). They hit it off, setting a date for the next summer to go boating in the park. But Jack can't swim, so he arranges for lessons with Clyde. He also learns to cook so that he can invite Connie to a dinner party. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong at the party, with Clyde and Lucy's marriage disintegrating faster than Jack and Lucy's relationship progresses.

Is it any good?

This is a refreshing drama made by and for grown-ups. Already a celebrated actor, Hoffman makes his directorial debut in this drama based upon a 2007 play by Bob Glaudini (in which Hoffman also starred). Perhaps not surprisingly, the result is more character-based than it is flashy or visual. It would almost come across as a fairly routine indie/Sundance-type movie if not for the superior acting and subtle characterization.

A surface reading shows a good number of "quirky" touches -- from Jack's penchant for reggae music and his quasi-dreadlocked hair to the montage "learning" sequences to some of the staging and soundtrack choices. But Hoffman clearly feels this material, and he turns it into an intimate, emotionally rich atmosphere, with the four leads playing off of one another with great skill, comfort, and complexity; the movie is strong enough for a second reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Jack and Connie. Are they good communicators? Do they do a good job of discussing what they want and what they're afraid of? How does this affect the way that the movie depicts sex?

  • Does Clyde have a problem with drinking, smoking, or drugs? Is he addicted, or is he using the substances to ease the pain of his failing marriage? Is that an excuse?

  • Is Jack a good role model? Throughout the film, everyone seems to help him, but he's rarely able to offer any help back -- does that make him selfish? Would he help if he could?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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