MRR Review: "God's Pocket"
on 2014-05-09 17:00
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: May 9, 2014
Directed by: John Slattery
"God's Pocket" is the directorial film debut of John Slattery. The film follows the life of Mickey, a man struggling to come up with enough money to pay for a funeral for his stepson, Leon. Mickey chooses several unconventional methods to accumulate extra money, which ends up further complicating his already-desperate life.
In the beginning scenes of "God's Pocket," Mickey is struggling to make his marriage work. He loves his wife, but he absolutely hates her son, Leon. When Leon dies after a mysterious accident at work, Mickey thinks all of his problems are gone. However, he soon learns that they are just beginning.
Mourning the death of her son, Mickey's wife Jeanie begins to question the circumstances surrounding her son's death. She ultimately reaches the conclusion that Leon was murdered but is unable to find any evidence to prove it. Frustrated, Jeanie enlists the help of a local reporter named Richard Shelburn. Although he promises to help, Richard is ultimately out to seduce Jeanie and cast Mickey in a bad light.
Meanwhile, Mickey is left struggling to come up with enough money for Leon's burial. He quickly decides to employ dangerous methods that jeopardize his life. However, he believes the risk is worth it, since he assumes burying Leon will make Jeanie recover and stop the pursuit of Richard. Unfortunately for Mickey, nothing goes as planned.
The star-studded cast of veteran actors featured in "God's Pocket" manage to turn bleak characters into memorable roles. Philip Seymour Hoffman expertly portrays the always-scheming Mickey. Hoffman highlights the character's shortcomings while exposing the emotions that underlie the desperate measures he takes to provide for his wife.
Christine Hendricks plays Jeanie, whose misery throughout the film makes the role very limiting. In the first half of the film, Hendricks' performance is solid, but throughout the second half, her character mainly appears in the background looking stoic. Consequently, Hendricks' character is easily overshadowed by several talented supporting cast members, including Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Peter Gerety. These actors create very unique and unforgettable characters that make up for any shortcomings in the construction of the main characters.
As the voice-over in the opening scenes suggests, "God's Pocket" is about the reality of a so-called "working-class life." By this, director John Slattery appears to mean having just enough money to survive without living a comfortable life. In the case of Mickey, this is absolutely true. He works his illegal job stealing vehicles and reselling them to pay the bills. However, when an unexpected expense pops us – the death of Leon – he is desperate to find the money to pay for the funeral.
Mickey's mission to get more money provides the bulk of the dark humor in the film. He engages with many neighborhood friends, which often leads to out-of-context but humorous discussions. Topics range from the shortcomings of a racehorse to the moral lessons McKenna, the local bartender, insists on giving his loyal customers.
These brief conversations are seemingly intended to offset some of the gore-filled scenes where certain characters resort to violence. Although the whole foundation for the plot – Leon's death – was a result of spontaneous violence, the subsequent scenes feel disjointed. There is no lead-up to some of the more gruesome scenes, which is effective at shocking the audience. This seems to be the sole purpose of these violent scenes. Ultimately, they are unnecessary for the development of the plot.
Aside from select scenes that fail to blend with the storyline, the plot as a whole is very intriguing. Mickey's actions and various encounters are all very unpredictable, which makes the film more enjoyable to watch. There is also a good mix of good, bad, humorous and sad causes and consequences of Mickey's various endeavors. With a short 88 minutes of film time, the events flow naturally, and the somewhat single-focused plot has just enough time to develop.
The gritty setting of "God's Pocket" completes the film and provides the perfect backdrop to the story. The entire film is cast in a subtle darkness, and the buildings and houses are all nondescript and just on the verge of being rundown. This in essence is a metaphor for many of the characters' lives – they are getting by, but just barely.
In the end, "God's Pocket" does not having a happy ending that solves all of the characters' problems. Instead, the main character learns a valuable lesson, and in turn, the audience learns something valuable by watching the on-screen action. Although the story is often dark and the characters are at times unappealing, the acting is excellent and the story is poignant.