“God’s Pocket” (2014)
A newspaper reporter writes in his column describing the men of God’s Pocket as people who live their whole life in the same city they were born in and never seeing any other part of the world. In fact, if you are not from God’s Pocket, you are considered an outsider and to be looked down on.
The writer, heard in a voiceover at the start of the film, is the city’s newspaper regular columnist, Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins). Shellburn is a hard drinking man, the kind that always has a beer by his side, even when driving his car. Both he and the city have seen better days. It’s as time stopped in the 1970’s though the rust on the cars and the disrepair of the buildings tell us time has marched on. Shellburn turns into his editor his anniversary column, the same one he has written four years in a row. Like the rest of the townspeople, Shellburn is just going through the motions, whether it’s writing his column or picking up journalism major at the local bar, he’s just not going to put a lot of effort in the exercise.
Mickey (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a low level criminal, the type you hire to steal a truck full of meat. Mickey is well liked in the community but because he has only lived in the area for the past 17 years, he is seen as an outsider. Mickey is married to Jeanie (Christina Hendricks), a housewife who is from God’s Pocket, giving Mickey a little credibility in the community. Mickey is the stepfather to Jeanie’s twenty two year old boy, Leon (Caleb Landry Jones), a fowl mouthed pill popping day laborer who likes to brandish a straight razor for fun. Jeanie sees her son in a different light than the rest of the community, waking him up each morning and making him something for breakfast that he immediately throws away.
Leon is killed in what is described as a construction accident, but Jeannie is convinced that something bad happened to her only child and she implores Mickey to find out. This sends Mickey on a tangled tale to not only find out what happened, but also need to find a way to pay for the stepson’s funeral.
This is one of the last performances that we will see on the big screen of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one of this generations greatest actors and, unfortunately, is just misses the mark. The film, directed by actor John Slattery (“Mad Men”) and written by Alex Metcalf and Slattery, never quite finds the voice of the film. It’s a gritty, working class of a film that has a few comedic moments, but it is filled with characters that are too one dimensional. I would have liked the film to be a little more extreme in either its drama portion or its comedic moments. The story-line moves around quite a bit and never lets us completely focus on one character, making the film stop and start too many times.
Hoffman is given a character that we instantly like, even though he does some bad things, like getting drunk on the night his stepson is killed. Mickey is not there for his wife, who reacts badly to the death, staying at the bar till closing, even though it is right across from where he lives. But his character is very simple to figure out, not allowing Hoffman to give the sort of complex performance that we know he is capable of.
Of the fine cast, which includes John Turturro, who plays Mickey’s best friend, and Eddie Marsan, who plays a slimy funeral owner, Christina Hendricks playing the grieving mom, is the one that stands out. Her character is multi-layered and we see the grief and the pain her son’s death has caused in her every scene. She gives us a woman who inside is complicated and one that lets her emotions get the better of her.
While not a bad first effort by John Slattery, it’s a film that never quite meets its potential. It’s a film that because of its great cast, led by the legendary Hoffman, you want to be more substantial than it ends of being. Like the men of God’s Pocket, the film never finds its way to a better story. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it AgainFollow @Lastonetoleave
“God’s Pocket” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema