How do crappy movies get made? I’d love to sit in on a meeting between a distributor and a filmmaker and watch the reactions as the film plays out. A good cast is appealing, I get that, but just because the actors are great, doesn’t mean that they’re going to be the right fit for the film. Miscastings and a general lack of effort should be evident from a first viewing and I’m beside myself, as to how no one questions it beforehand. I love movies and I love independent films, but sometimes they need to be aware of what they’re doing and what they’re trying to sell.
Within the area known as “God’s Pocket”, all sorts of its inhabitants have their own issues and a general lack of humanity (to some degree). The people work hard and get their hands dirty, but they’re also abrupt and won’t hesitate to act irrationally. This is evident upon our meeting of Mickey and Jeanie Scarpato (Phillip Seymour Hoffman & Christina Henricks), two “classy” people who have to deal with the burial of their awful son, Leon (Caleb Landry Jones). Money is a problem for the Scarpato’s, so Mickey tries his hand at some shady deals with his buddy, Arthur “Bird” Capezio (John Turturro). From horse race betting to moving meat, the two get in deep with Sal Cappi (Domenick Lombardozzi), the kind of guy you don’t want to owe.
While dealing with his money issues, Mickey also has to deal with Smilin’ Jack Moran (Eddie Marsan), the funeral home head who’s also in charge of prepping Mickey’s son for burial. He’s stingy with his prices and ultimately mistreats Mickey. While Mickey deals with his own issues, Jeanie has her fair share of interesting experiences with Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins), the local journalist celebrity desperate for love and affection. As all these people’s lives intertwine, money and the truth alter minds and turn people against each other. At the end of the day, people get hurt and betrayed, but that’s just your average day in “God’s Pocket”.
God’s Pocket is as bad a movie as the place is depicted within the movie. Just like its stupid characters, this film is stupid and has no idea what it’s doing or what it wants. The characters seem so distant from each other and themselves and they all have some sort of psychosis problem, as they mutter to themselves about the weirdest and most irrelevant things. Everything feels out-of-place, from the casting to the story and how it unfolds. God’s Pocket is just plain awful and its only redeeming values come at the expense of the audience laughing at how atrocious everything is.
The only way I could bring myself to recommend this film is by way of education. God’s Pocket is a perfect example of everything going wrong, despite having the potential to succeed. There are racial and gang-related undertones that could provide for an interesting story, but we’re stuck with gross sex scenes and conversations about a horse’s genitals. Every character wallows in their own self-pity and it’s easy to laugh when they fail. There were many “what the hell just happened” moments in this film and I did laugh quite a bit when an elderly woman would butt into conversations, or even blow gangsters away with a gun much larger than herself. As a comedy, this film could have been semi-decent.
Despite the unfortunate and untimely loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I hate to think that this was one of his last projects. For a man of immense talent and with such a diverse resume, this project doesn’t make any sense for him. He looks uncomfortable and unhealthy all throughout the film, but then again, so does everyone else. Christina Hendricks is an incredible actress (as evidenced by Mad Men), however she is very wrong for this film. All her emotions seem fake and her wig is painfully distracting. Almost as distracting as the lack of awareness from John Turturro, who appeared as if he’d taken a few Benadryl before each take. All of these central characters whom we should care for are boring and uninspiring. The only person who seems to get anywhere is Richard Jenkins, but his character just narrates about how crappy of a place God’s Pocket is and he’s always trying to get it in with Hendricks.
This town/area known as “God’s Pocket” is representative of any small town that derives most its employment from hard labor. The people all flock to the only bar in town after work and fights are always breaking out. The people are unpleasant to see and watch and the way they treat each other makes little to no sense. If you nudge someone on accident, you’ll probably get gang-beaten. Rest assured, you can always get life advice from elderly women who will gossip the night away. The laborers are portrayed as uneducated and their use of, or acceptance of racist language is unnecessary. You can’t forget the gangsters who run amuck in this town, but even then, they don’t belong here. Why are Italian gangsters in this hell-hole of a town? Nothing makes sense in this movie.
While the movie wasn’t a great experience, I did find a lot of joy as I exchanged my thoughts on this film with my friend and fellow critic, Mike Ward. We were live-texting as we watched this film and looking back through our messages solidifies the fact that logic doesn’t exist in this film. There’s no police force, there’s a lot of terrible editing, there are many unrealistic sexual encounters (that are all gross and forced), awful remarks about groups of people, and general commentary that begs the question “why?”. No joke, a man at the bar tries to console Hoffman (who just lost his son) by stating he “banged a local street whore on the day his mother died”. Another personal favorite of mine was “you know what we used to say about wearing yellow on Tuesdays? It means you’re queer in God’s Pocket.” With that, I rest my case.
I wish so desperately that I could retrieve those 80-some minutes lost while watching this film, but I take comfort in the fact that I had a lot of fun writing this review. My thoughts are pretty sound on this film and I’m not sure how else I can describe this pathetic and worthless excuse of a film. There’s nothing remotely good about it and what’s most upsetting is that this film wastes a wonderful cast. God’s Pocket has zero redeeming values and you should skip it entirely.
God’s Pocket Trailer