God’s Pocket, 2014.
Directed by John Slattery.
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro and Eddie Marsan.
A blue collar worker (Hoffman) tries to cover things up when his stepson is killed in a suspicious accident, but a local reporter (Jenkins) senses that something’s amiss.
Mad Men is one of many TV shows that have given us so much over its seven year run: millions have been transfixed on the stories of Don Draper and co as they advertise and smoke their way through 1960’s corporate America. But amongst the storylines and character arcs, its given us a wealth of superb talent. The likes of Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss have taken Hollywood by storm, but now its the turn of actor-turned-director John Slattery (Iron Man 2) to take a stab at making a splash in Hollywood, and with co-star Christina Hendricks in tow, moves a million miles away to tell the story of the inhabitants of a much darker, grittier corner of life in the USA.
The film revolves around the community of God’s Pocket, a small working-class corner of America where everyone knows your name and will protect each other in times of need. The same can not be said of relative outsider Mickey (Hoffman), an outsider who married into the pocket when he settled down with local gal Jeanie (Hendricks) and her repellant son Leon (Jones). When Leon’s racist undertones see him killed at the local construction site where he occasionally works, the town briefly mourns before continuing their da-to-day without flinching. Jeanie suspects foul-play; local reporter Shelburn (Jenkins) smells a story, and heads across town to uncover the truth, while fallen unabashedly for Jeanie at the same time.
Billed as a black comedy about death and loss, God’s Pocket rarely musters any dark, seedy laughs, nor does it show the slightest shred of empathy or believable grief that the loss of a loved one brings. Instead, Slattery and co-writer Alex Metcalf busy themselves trying to bring as much grim, stark realism to proceedings as possible, focusing more on look than feel that leaves the film empty and flaccid. Slattery, who has a wealth of experience to draw upon in his directorial debut, shows some neat touches throughout that show obvious ability, but it’s as if he is trying just too much too soon in his efforts to maintain a directing career in the future.
Thank goodness then for the cast, who despite struggling for much in the way of development and incites, are great across the board. In a somewhat sad turn of serendipity, it’s strange to see the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a film built around death and the effects it has, but as ever the Oscar winner is a class apart here, and follows up his superb turn in the criminally under-seen A Most Wanted Man with another brilliant turn.
Hendricks, beginning her life-after-Mad Men career, again shows both her class and obvious allure, while the ever-reliable duo of John Turturro and Richard Jenkins once again show their versatility, particularly Jenkins who changes pace after a few turns in more comedic fare. For a group of actors to turn such a dour film into an (almost) worthwhile piece speaks volumes for their talents, proving just how accomplished they truly are.
God’s Pocket should work much better than it does: the potential to make something truly special is here in spades, but for all the endeavour of the performers, the film’s lacklustre script and unappealing story make it almost impossible to love, despite the best efforts of Hoffman, Hendricks, Jenkins and Turturro. Director John Slattery certainly shows potential behind the camera here, but has a long way to go to turn that potential into Hollywood gold. Disappointing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Scott J. Davis