This is the kind of film I usually root for: a collage of
vignettes about offbeat, colorful characters, played by an A-list cast
including the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. But God’s Pocket doesn’t quite work, and that’s a shame. Actor John
Slattery, best known for his role as Roger Sterling on Mad Men, directed and co-wrote this adaptation of Pete Dexter’s
novel, which takes place in an insular Philadelphia neighborhood where
everybody knows everybody else’s business. The setting is the 1980s but the
story doesn’t seem to belong to that time or any other that’s recognizably
real. The lusty, cynical, hard-drinking characters might be more at home in a
Damon Runyon story of the 1930s, but even then you’d have to call them
Hoffman is the central figure, a world-weary dreamer and schemer who’s never been fully accepted in the neighborhood because he wasn’t born there. He’s the kind of guy who just can’t catch a break: always in debt, in the doghouse with his wife, and reduced to begging favors from people who have little or no faith in him.
Virtually every character in the movie is played by a talented actor, so there is pleasure to be had just watching Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Eddie Marsan, John Turturro, Peter Gerety and Joyce Van Patten go through their paces. You can sense what Slattery is aiming for in this darkly comic fable, but it never quite gels. Good acting and good intentions count for something, but the results fall short. Chalk this one up as a disappointment.