‘God’s Pocket’: Fine cast makes this an interesting place to visit
A two-star movie review of “God’s Pocket,” a heavy drama set in the film’s titular working-class neighborhood and based on a novel by Whidbey Island resident Peter Dexter. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars.
Special to The Seattle Times
‘God’s Pocket,’ with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins. Directed by John Slattery, from a screenplay by Slattery and Alex Metcalf, based on a novel by Peter Dexter. 88 minutes. Rated R for violence, language throughout and sexual content. Varsity, Grand Cinema.
A ring of violence and absurdity widens over the course of “God’s Pocket,” unexpectedly catching up a lot of people and threatening to bring down much of the film’s titular working-class neighborhood where heavy drama veers — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not — into the ludicrous.
Yet it’s hard to know what co-screenwriter and first-time feature director John Slattery (one of the stars of “Mad Men”) is after in “God’s Pocket,” based on a novel by Whidbey Island resident Peter Dexter. Depth and emotional resonance prove elusive, though the film is always interesting; a fine cast delivers; Lance Acord’s cinematography is a fascinating palette of 1970s earth tones; and the story’s serial misdeeds keep flipping over into something stunningly worse.
What’s left is an awkward blend of tragedy and comedy, in a movie that doesn’t feel as if it has earned the right to be either.
Set in a South Philadelphia neighborhood, “God’s Pocket” is a place where — according to a corrupt, alcoholic newspaper columnist (Richard Jenkins) who mythologizes the community in print — everyone has sinned against everyone else, yet collective identity is always strong.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a marginal criminal whose stepson is murdered. The fallout is like a three-ring circus: a gouged-out eye, shootings, a disastrous horse race, a nauseating affair and a meat-truck collision.
Hoffman is engrossing as a decent man lumbering through an uncontrolled life. Christina Hendricks is a blur as his unhappy wife, and John Turturro is excellent as Hoffman’s buddy. Here’s hoping Slattery gets behind a camera again and builds on the strengths of “God’s Pocket.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org