God’s Pocket

Directed by John Slattery

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Caleb Landry Jones
In UK Cinemas August 8th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

God’s Pocket is a heavy hitter.  Based on the novel by award-winning author Pete Dexter (The Paperboy, Mulholland Falls), the bleak drama stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last performances, alongside an ensemble cast of excellent actors including Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Caleb Landry Jones.  The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and is the feature film directorial debut of Mad Men star John Slattery (Roger Sterling).

This all looks great on paper.  In reality, God’s Pocket is a dreary attempt at capturing life in the blue-collar neighbourhood of God’s Pocket, USA.  It feels very unauthentic and merely flounders its way through to the end, giving us snapshots of what these characters are going through in their miserable lives.  While there are many things wrong with this story in film form, the musical score is the most hindering aspect.  The music, while overtly trying to be ambient, is in fact overly prominent and detracting from each scene that is scored.  The directorial efforts of John Slattery do nothing to aid this issue and in fact, further the flaws in this film, leading a very strong cast astray into the mess that is God’s Pocket.

While Pete Dexter’s The Paperboy film adaptation by director Lee Daniels is also bleak and dire, at least it is a gripping watch with excellent performances, and for some reason, also an inappropriate musical score.  Perhaps Dexter’s work is best left on the pages rather than brought to the screen.  It’s a huge tragedy that this is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances as neither the film nor his performance do the late great actor justice.

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