God’s Pocket should have be known as the directorial debut of Mad Men star John Slattery, but instead it will be remembered as one of the last film’s of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is rather unfortunate as it is mostly disappoints, despite the many talents that surround the film (and Hoffman).
Hoffman plays a very Hoffman-esque character named Mickey Scarpato who drinks to much and has money issues. He’s an outsider to the Philadelphia area known as God’s Pocket where he resides with wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks). After a workplace indecent leaves her son Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) dead (not a spoiler, the film begins with his funeral), Mickey is forced to find a way to pay for the funeral, only he is still waiting for his bud Bird (John Turturro) to pay him back. But Bird is also in debt to some dangerous mob-guys, so Mickey must get in line.
As expected, the death of Leon causes turmoil from within. Mickey can’t pay for the funeral, and poor Jeanie is struggling to keep it together, suspicious of his death being more than just “an accident.” This is where adored newspaper columnist Richard Shelburn (Richard Jenkins) comes in. He comes to Jeanie looking for an interview, and she needs the support that she isn’t getting from Mickey. You know where its headed. Things get messy for everyone all around, especially for Leon, who can’t even die in peace.
With a cast as excellent and dynamic as this, it’s a shame that God’s Pocket disappoints as much as it does. It hopes to get by purely on its cast alone, but its not quite enough. Aside from a few sudden bursts of violence, God’s Pocket is rather dull and lifeless, almost becoming too much like the town that it portrays. Slattery never seems to stir the ship in the right direction, which is surprising, because he did a mighty fine job with the several episodes that he directed for Mad Men.
If there’s one thing to takeaway from it all, it’s the performance of Hoffman. He finds a way to stretch every bit of juicy detail and character out of Mickey, truly living within the role. He’s terrific of course, it’s just a pity the rest of the film is forgettable.
He deserved better.