Review: ‘God’s Pocket’ is more than one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last films

John Turturro and Philip Seymour Hoffman are up to no good in "God's Pocket." Credit: IFC Films
John Turturro and Philip Seymour Hoffman are up to no good in “God’s Pocket.”
Credit: IFC Films

‘God’s Pocket’
Director: John Slattery
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Blue-collar types tend to be either romanticized or demonized. The work of Pete Dexter does neither. His debut novel, “God’s Pocket,” hung out in a dead-end section of South Philadelphia, where those born there rarely leave and outsiders are viewed with suspicion. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s mostly harmless, a distinction understood by its new adaptation, which also marks the first film directed by John Slattery. His film has its rookie problems, but it gets the feeling of a cloistered urban space where some are restless, some prefer to drink themselves to death, and others just eke by.

Granted, it does live by the cliche that regular folks are played by familiar movie stars, albeit the kind of terrific character actors who fade into their roles. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last performances, heads an all-star cast as Mickey, a boozing lowlife who picks up trucks. His loose cannon stepson (Caleb Landry Jones) dies at his construction job — actually is whacked upside the head by a day laborer he provoked — and Mickey’s often absurdist attempts to deal with the body, with no money to pay for the funeral, form the film’s loose plot.

But it’s mostly a series of episodes, going nowhere much at all. John Turturro, relaxed and funny, plays Mickey’s colleague, stuck with outstanding debts. Christina Hendricks is Mickey’s wife, who suspects foul play in her son’s death. Richard Jenkins looms on the sidelines as a judgmental former resident who made it good as a big-time (local) columnist. (Dexter had the same job, and the character in part exists to stress the author’s lack of arrogance.) These segments range in tone: Most are darkly funny in some way, though some are more broad than others. Turturro and Eddie Marsan’s showy funeral director appear to be in different films than Hoffman’s withdrawn sadsack. One bit puts the old saying “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” into literal, possibly too gruesome practice.

Would a more experienced filmmaker have been able to smooth out the tone, make it more of a piece? Definitely. But Slattery’s debut — after directing episodes of “Mad Men” — has a ramshackle charm, and one that seems more comfortable with the down-and-out than it does with … well, no one’s not down-and-out, not even Jenkins’ journo, who pounds cans in the car and dreams of sidling up the neighborhood bar he likes to demonize in print. With his first feature, Slattery gets some things wrong, but he gets right things that no one does.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.