Review: God's Pocket
NOTE: This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2014 coverage.
Probably the best way to describe GOD'S POCKET is by adopting that familiar- if overused- term quirky which has been used to describe many Sundance films. Quirky is fine, but there needs to be more to a movie than that or it starts to feel hollow. Sadly, that's the case with GOD'S POCKET. Set in a more than a little seedy community, Hoffman plays something of an outsider as the ne'er do well Mickey. A decent guy despite his scheming, he's been welcomed into the community thanks to his marriage to the neighbourhoods most desired woman, Jeannie. While he gets the gorgeous Jeannie, he also has to deal with her psycho son Noel, played by Caleb Landry Jones, who likes torturing animals, hurling racial slurs at every minority he sees, and constantly brandishes a straight-razor. When he threatens the wrong person with his razor, he gets his head caved-in, and Jeannie demands Mickey get to the bottom of what happened.
If this sounds like a kind of mystery, that's misleading as Noel's death actually has very little to do with the proceedings. Rather, the film (as I assume is the case with Dexter's novel) is more concerned with the various characters and in the community, including John Turturro's mob-connected flower-shop owner, Eddie Marsan's scumbag funeral director, and Richard Jenkins as an alcoholic local writer who thinks of himself as the town's official scribe.
Fittingly for a film directed by an actor, this is a performers showcase. Everyone does good work, with Seymour Hoffman especially good as Mickey. The problem is that the film- despite running a mere ninety minutes- drags. If you're an actor, you might be interested with the ways everyone's allowed to explore the quirks of their characters, but most casual viewers won't care. By a half-hour I had spent enough time in God's Pocket to know it wasn't the place for me. Slattery's probably got a solid career ahead of him as a director, but the film doesn't really have much of a style- although credit has to go to the costume designers for doing a good job recreating drab seventies-era clothing (the era the film seems to take place in although no year is given). The only time the film comes to life is in the brief unexpected instances of graphic violence, such as an out-of-nowhere eye gouging, and a quick, albeit kind of hilarious shootout.
On the whole, GOD'S POCKET isn't a particularly bad film, but it's still drab and uninteresting. It's hard to invest in any of the characters, and it just seemed dull. Still, the performances are solid so if you're a die-hard Seymour Hoffman fan you might want to give it a look ( note: this review was written before his tragic passing.). Still, this is a Sunday afternoon-Netflix kind of movie at best.