Our Sundance Film Festival coverage continues with Michael Cusumano on John Slattery's "God's Pocket".
Have you, like me, been waiting impatiently for years for a filmmaker to figure out how to transfer Christina Hendricks’ incredible star wattage to the big screen? When I saw that none other than John Slattery directed and co-wrote her latest film, I was optimistic. Who better to give her the vehicle she deserves than someone who has had a front row seat to her abilities these past six seasons on Mad Men?
No such luck. Slattery’s God’s Pocket criminally wastes Christina Hendricks in an underwritten role that limits her to sobbing through the film’s first half and being a passive sounding board for the male stars in the second. Which is not to say anyone else in the cast fares much better. [more...]
God’s Pocket assembles an impressive array of talent that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Richard Jenkins, then proceeds to strand them in a sea of half-baked plot threads and failed working class poetry.
The title refers to an insular Philadelphia neighborhood filled with colorful characters that spend all day being drunk and vulgar as if they hope David Mamet might happen past and write a play about them. Richard Jenkins’ newspaper columnist keeps a running commentary on the town with purple prose like, “The folks of God’s Pocket could forgive anything, except not being from God’s Pocket.” One hopes the film is having fun at the expense of this windbag, but you get the sinking suspicion it thinks this third-rate Bukowski is profound.
Events kick off when Hendricks’ loathsome son dies a stupid death at a construction site and the crime is quickly covered up because the little jerk had it coming. Hoffman plays the kid’s down-on-his-luck stepfather who is tasked with A) getting to the bottom of the death and B) somehow coming up with the dough to pay for the funeral. Hoffman cranks up the schlubbiness to the max in a performance that seems designed to make it clear to Paul Giamatti once and for all who is king of the sad sacks.
Slattery has proved an able hand behind the camera prior to God’s Pocket, directing several standout episodes of Man Men. This time he can’t manage a firm grip on the tone, which seesaws awkwardly from attempts at black comedy involving a misplaced corpse, to a tragic conclusion the film hasn’t remotely earned. There is a scattering of stand-alone moments that work, but when you get down to it, there isn’t a single character on screen worth caring about, and the audience’s main reward is the sight of great actors struggling to elevate material that is DOA.
Distribution: IFC just picked it up. With this many stars in the cast list distribution did seem likely