Deep underneath its greasy, dishevelled characters, God’s Pocket has community at its heart. Outside of the plot, this is a film about the claustrophobia of a certain type of neighbourhood and the unlucky individuals who can’t get out of them. Despite the film’s negative portrayal of such a world, where education is lacking and violence and addiction rule, in its greatest moments, God’s Pocket starts to shed some light on a bunch of dangerous circumstances that are controlled by debt, violence and betrayal. When local menace Leon gets his bloody comeuppance, his step-father is left to find funds to pay for the funeral, look into the circumstances of the death and deal with his heartbroken wife. The film is a mixture of little sub-plots that never really go anywhere or get resolved but that doesn’t stop God’s Pocket from making an impression during its best scenes. God’s Pocket sadly isn’t powerful enough and remains quite forgettable but it is delivered with force by a terrific cast who venture into the personalities of their troubled characters and all the demons that plague them. What will attract most to this movie is the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles. I was deeply impressed with A Most Wanted Man at Edinburgh Film Festival, another of Hoffman’s final projects. Although God’s Pocket isn’t a great film in comparison, it too demonstrates what a consistent and intense artist Philip Seymour Hoffman was.
I watched God’s Pocket with a great sadness – admiring Hoffman’s ability to make his characters bubble just below the surface. Outbursts of fury and desperation from Hoffman’s character keep God’s Pocket enjoyable. He delivers a performance that reminds us that he was a master of on-screen rage and frustration. When it comes down to it, I’d happily sit through any number of mediocre films like this because firstly, it’s ambitious and inoffensive but secondly because watching Hoffman at work is enough to keep any film standing upright. Alcoholism, gambling, anger and bereavement consume everyone in God’s Pocket – painting an accurate image of what it takes to grow up, live and die on the same street. There are moments of real wit that are almost too dark for the audience to appreciate and despite the slight meandering and meaninglessness of certain characters, there is intelligence that lurks in God’s Pocket – it’s just buried a little bit too far down. Eddie Marsan, John Turturro and Richard Jenkins all contribute greatly to the film, making up most of the low-lifes that God’s Pocket centres around. Welcome to God’s Pocket: a neighbourhood where liquor takes control and nobody has your back. It’s up to you to make up your own mind about what you think of the people who live here – and it’s all a matter of whether you think they’ve got dirty hands or dirty faces.
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