Film

God’s Pocket

Pour one out for P.S.H.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last two completed films, blends right into the saloon and butcher shop atmosphere of God’s Pocket, Mad Men star John Slattery’s directorial debut—a flavorful, flawed adaptation of Pete Dexter’s novel about a fictional hard-knocks neighborhood in Philadelphia.

As Mickey Scarpato, a man who makes his living selling stolen meat out of a refrigerated truck, Hoffman captures the resignation and animal wiles needed to get through a shadowy life in dire straits. Mickey is actually an outsider in God’s Pocket; he came to live there as the second husband of a longtime resident, Jeanie (Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks). He’s the fulcrum of the action, though, in this slice-of-street-life story.

Hoffman lends his role, and the movie, all of his hardscrabble gravity. Mickey is one of Hoffman’s heavier, more slow-moving characters—like Art Howe in Moneyball but without the mental spark, or Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games without the seductive omniscience. His wariness both anchors the film and contrasts vividly with the nimbleness of John Turturro, who plays his nervous, Mob-connected boss.

Mickey’s obnoxious, lunatic stepson, Leon—especially as played by Caleb Landry Jones, a real live-wire find—provides the most outrageous counterpoint to Hoffman’s antihero. Early on, Leon gets killed on a construction site. The foreman tells the cops that his death was an accident, but Jeanie senses, rightly, that he’s covering up. She commands her husband to get to the bottom of the crime, and also to make sure that her lad gets the best funeral possible in God’s Pocket.

What ensues is a black comedy of errors involving a hotheaded Mafia higher-up, Sal Cappi (Domenick Lombardozzi), an epic bad bet, and a chiseling, pugnacious undertaker (Eddie Marsan). Director Slattery, working from a script he wrote with Alex Metcalf, has an appalled kind of fascination and affection for characters who express themselves with fists, gun, lead pipe or straight razor. The residents of God’s Pocket are quick to cross or even double-cross each other, but just as quick to move on. In their closed world, they can’t make lasting enemies—except for nonresidents like alcoholic newspaperman Richard Shelburn (Richard Jenkins), who not only has been wooing Jeanie but has also been writing columns some locals find insulting.

Unfortunately, Slattery doesn’t give Hendricks the scenes that could make us understand what’s at stake if she chooses Richard or sticks with Mickey. Her introductory scene is a familiar depiction of bored marital sex; it’s almost as flat and unbelievable as the scene of a pretty, eager-to-please Temple University grad trying to stimulate the sodden Richard. When Jeanie is with Richard you can’t tell whether she’s charmed, excited or merely flattered by celebrity. Hendricks is an intriguing camera subject, voluptuous and ravaged, but her character’s one driving force is her grief over her son, not any passion for the men who risk life and limb for her.

Mickey’s determination to please his wife is what drives the movie’s action. Because it fails to convey what this couple might share, God’s Pocket, despite its tiptop cast, becomes, at best, a piece of sardonic anthropology.

SVCR Innings
More Film...
Citizen Jane
Battle for the City

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, directed by the gifted journalist and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor), tells the story of a David-and-Goliath fight over urban planning that took place more than 50 years ago. Yet the movie just about pulses with contemporary…

more »
Mysterious Sci-Fi Cinema
A Film Is Truth fundraiser

Because I was raised by fascists who lived to persecute me (Hi, mom and dad!), I didn’t (read: wasn’t allowed) to watch much television when I was growing up. For years, the only thing I knew of popular programs came from the chatter of my friends—chatter I was sadly excluded from.…

more »
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Long live Baby Groot!

The word “Marvel,” as in comic books or movie studios, has become a foundational term of our culture. Yet you could sit through almost every one of today’s comic-book movies and not find a whole lot to marvel at. That’s where Guardians of the Galaxy came in. In an era of…

more »
Events
Today
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Downtown Walk with WNPS

6:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Audubon Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MVHS Jazz

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

University Choir

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Books on Tap

7:00pm|Maggie's Pub

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Northwood Steak and Crab
Tomorrow
Ski to Sea Book Sale

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Spring Tea

2:00pm|Lynden Community Center

Blaine Marina Tour

2:00pm|Blaine Marina

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market Opening

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Brewers Cruise Kickoff

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Just Halibut

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Thomas Marriott Quartet

7:00pm|Unity Spiritual Center

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Lester and Hyldahl Northwood Steak and Crab
Thursday
Ski to Sea Book Sale

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

BC Morgan Horse Show

9:00am| Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Whatcom Food Network's Spring Forum

1:00pm|Squalicum Boathouse

Experience Ireland

6:00pm|Whatcom Community College

Red Light to Starboard

6:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Elimination Diet Cooking

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Movie Trivia

7:00pm|Bayou Annex Bar

Adventure Awaits!

7:00pm|Village Books

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

What-A-Sho!

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

Golden Goose Preview

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Crevasse Rescue Clinic

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

Julius Caesar

7:30pm|Miller Hall

Twelfth Night

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab Lester and Hyldahl Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1