Gritty God’s Pocket Highlights Late Hoffman
For Mad Men veteran John Slattery, God’s Pocket is a modest directorial debut that doesn’t quite have the necessary punch. Still, the end result showcases why the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors.
God’s Pocket is a depressing neighborhood in 1980s South Philly, tough on the outside but a place without a future. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) is Mickey, a petty crook struggling with life’s everyday ordeals. Matters grow more complicated when his son (Caleb Landry Jones) is killed on the job. With a funeral to plan, no money and a distant wife, Mickey desperately attempts to put things right.
Like its setting God’s Pocket has little issue treading depressing waters. There’s too many wrongs going on in Mickey’s life. Unfortunately he’s turns to crime, but it’s ultimately God’s Pocket which decided that. Seymour Hoffman is the film’s solid driving force, even if his character remains in neutral throughout.
The screenplay written by Slattery and John Metcalf sends Mickey in way too many directions. At first, there’s this sudden urge to have him confront the truth behind his son’s untimely death. But then it’s brushed aside in exchange for funeral preparations with a shady Eddie Marsan. And when that’s losing momentum, John Turturro pops in and out as his partner-in-crime.
Like so many of his previous roles, Seymour Hoffman handles the pressure of a dramatic role with ease. Granted, Mickey’s not exactly his most interesting character, lacking a much-needed moral compass.
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While God’s Pocket labors to paint a grim blue-collar portrait of the neighborhood, the likability of its characters is absent. Mickey’s wife, Jeannie (Christina Hendricks) mourns the loss of her only son, clueless to his actual character. The only reason he was killed in the first place was for threatening his black co-worker with racist remarks and a razor.
Jeannie shouldn’t be cut any slack either. A faithless wife to Mickey, she finds solace in a local celebrity journalist, Richard Shelburn, who’s reporting her son’s death. Richard Jenkins delivers an adequate performance as yet another morally gray member of God’s Pocket. He’s an outsider, but down deep he’s exactly like the rest of the common folk.
Besides being consistently dreary, God’s Pocket tries it hardest at pulling off aspects of a black comedy. The result is rather mixed. Many times the injected humor unnecessarily disrupts the dramatic momentum. There’s one escapade involving Mickey and his son’s corpse, which is no laughing matter by any means. Its execution is shockingly one of the few instances where the comedy pulls through.
In its brisk 87 minute run time, there’s never a dull moment in God’s Pocket. That said, there’s just not enough time to detail everyone’s personal ordeals. It’s unsatisfying to see even the keystone to this film not fully wrapped up when the credits roll.
Slattery deserves credit for trying his hand at directing such a challenging film. Still, he’s left plenty of stones in God’s Pocket left unturned.
GRADE: B- (3.5/5)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Marshall is a YouTube movie reviewer who hosts MNMreviews. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.