VOD film review: God’s Pocket
Ivan Radford | On 09, Dec 2014Reading time: 3 mins
Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins
Watch God’s Pocket online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Rakuten TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“The only thing people from God’s Pocket can’t forgive is not being from God’s Pocket.” That’s our introduction to John Slattery’s first film as director, a dark drama with even darker bits of comedy. The intention is set from the off with a funeral, which is promptly disrupted by a punch-up. Your reaction to that wallop will likely determine your reaction to the whole film.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last performances, stars as Mickey, a loser slob of a husband who steals meat so he can chop it up for sale. It’s a textbook reminder of what makes Hoffman such a powerful screen presence; neglectful, self-centred and usually drunk, Mickey is a flawed screw-up of a person, but he feels real, a quality that earns our sympathy.
His step-son, Leon (the ever-pale Caleb Landry Jones), doesn’t.
Racially abusing co-workers while threatening people with a flick knife, it’s no surprise that someone bumps him off – and even less of a surprise that nobody cares. Nobody, that is, except for his mother, Jeanie (Hendricks). And so she asks Mickey’s friend, Arthur (John Turturro), to investigate.
Things, naturally, go from bad to worse. Dead bodies, one-eyed goons and gambling debts all pour onto the streets of the fictional community from the shadowy cracks in which they were festering; boils on on already ugly plague.
If it sounds like a confused plot, that’s because it is: based on Peter Dexter’s novel, Alex Metcalf’s screenplay is part silly, part sad, part offbeat crime thriller, part marital breakdown. The result is a slippery tone that Slattery does not always control: he shoots everything with a grim, grubby deadpan look that treats humour and high drama the same. Everything is black and bleak, which leaves you unsure whether to laugh or cry at one man punching another at a funeral – or people moving corpses in the rain, or elderly women brandishing firearms.
And yet, at times, the uneven nature feels fitting for this fable of family, society and psychotic florists. Like the neighbourhood itself, this is a patchwork of stories knitted together by people; Christina Hendricks communicates the weight of her happiness just by looking forlornly out of a window, Eddie Marsan’s sympathetic funeral director is delightfully manipulative, while Turturro’s easy bond with Hoffman lets his loose narrative slide from gear to another.
Through it all, one thing remains constant: the voiceover of local reporter Richard Shellburn. Richard Jenkins’ journalist completes the accomplished ensemble, carting around a drinking problem to go with his receding hairline, as much a revered veteran as he is a sleazy pervert.
“The only thing people from God’s Pocket can’t forgive is not being from God’s Pocket,” he declares with the hackneyed air of yesterday’s fish and chip wrappings, at once romantic and wrecked. Perhaps that’s the movie’s problem: Slattery’s blue-collar neighbourhood is so close-knit that we never quite feel a part of it. We watch this fascinating parade of open wounds go past, held together with the band-aid of humanity, but end up stumbling away down the street, resigned to indifference.
God’s Pocket is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.