Friday, August 8, 2014

Film Reivew: God's Pocket (2014)

God's Pocket

Bostonian John Slattery, the ‘silver fox’ Roger Sterling from Mad Men has written and directed his first feature film and packed it full of his celebrity friends.  Somewhere between a gritty drama and a classic comedy farce, the action takes place in a tough inner city area known as God’s Pocket.

Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a blue-collar Philadelphia meat-worker who spends his life drinking in the same bar, betting on the same horses and committing the same petit crime, such as stealing lorries filled with meat.  One day he learns that his antagonistic stepson Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) has been suspiciously killed at a construction site, so he has to raise the money for the perfect funeral that his wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) wants for him. 

Meanwhile a cynical and alcoholic journalist (Richard Jenkins) writes about the death, and other unsavory aspects of the area known as God’s Pocket, and begins to spend time with Jeanie in order to investigate what really happened to her son.  At the same time, Mickey’s friend Arthur (John Turturro) is helping him raise some illegitimate funds for a memorial whilst dodging his own loan shark.  Whilst the journalist tries to uncover what happened to Leon, Mickey has to figure out a way of looking after the corpse of his stepson and prepare him for a funeral…

The narrative feels much like an HBO TV show homage to b-movies and if filmed in 4:3 rather than 16:9 would perfectly match the current long-form narratives that people obsess about on Netflix.  Having said that, it also fits perfectly within the recent post-Detroit, existential-male, industrial thrillers such as Blue Ruin, Out Of The Furnace and Blue Caprice.

The main problem with the film is the imbalance between scenes of dark drama juxtaposed with moments of almost slapstick comedy.  This wrenching between genres gives it a multi-stranded television feel and seems to ruin the overall atmosphere.  One moment where Hoffman falls over in dramatic slow-motion is particularly jarring…

It is also hard to disassociate the film with the knowledge that it was one of Hoffman’s last before he died earlier this year of a heroin overdose.  Bret Easton Ellis recently said of Hoffman in the film that he was “so sickly looking that it is both alarming and somehow a confirmation [of his impending tragedy]”, and I would agree with that – he looks like tired and preoccupied, which suits his character but hints to a larger ennui…

Slattery has managed to secure an impressive cast, but I wonder whether the exact same script with a group of unknown actors could have produced something slightly more authentic. 

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