DVD: Philip Seymour Hoffman Goes Directing in Jack Goes Boating

jackgoesboating_rev.jpgOne of the best films of 2011 that's not getting much love during this awards season (outside of the Independent Spirit Awards, which bestowed three nominations upon it) is Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating (out this week from Anchor Bay Entertainment). And while Mott Hupfel's gorgeous cinematography -- which turns wintry New York City into a gleaming bauble -- looks great on Blu-Ray, the DVD itself comes up a little short in the special features department.

Based on the play by Bob Glaudini, who also wrote the screen version, Jack mirrors how awkward loners Jack (Hoffman) and Connie (Amy Ryan) tentatively work their way into a relationship with each other while the mutual friends who set them up, married couple Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), drift apart.

Part of the directorial skill Hoffman displays in his first venture behind the camera comes in how he's taken this intimate, stage-bound story and blown it up to cinematic proportions without losing the small grace notes that occur between the characters. Jack and Connie are terminally shy, working-class people, but they're never treated in a condescending or precious way. And while Clyde and Lucy are clearly creeping towards a cataclysm in their marriage, the two terrific actors who play them let us see both why they got together in the first place and what's eventually going to tear them apart.

It's too bad the DVD doesn't take us very deeply inside Hoffman's process -- we get two short featurettes (on NYC shooting and on the adaptation from stage to screen), two deleted scenes, and a trailer...and that's it. Hoffman comes off as extremely intelligent and articulate in interviews, making him a filmmaker whose commentary would actually be a treat to hear, so it's disappointing not to get one.

With any luck, there will be another movie, and another shot at a more loaded DVD, for director Hoffman after this stunning first film.