God’s Pocket tells the bleak story of the struggling everyman in an ultra trashy American neighbourhood, and it tells the story of crime within a close-knit community and it also tells the darkly comedic story of a man trying to raise funds for his stepson’s funeral… it tries to do all of these at the same time, and fails. One moment we are supposed to be laughing at slapstick humour, the next we are buried in the devastating anguish of a grieving mother. The performances should bring us close to tears, but instead we are distracted by what are often distinctly unfunny and mistimed jokes.
Unfortunately being tonally all over the place isn’t God’s Pocket only failing, it also falls fowl of having a weak script that treats us like we are idiots. We’re presented with some horrifically cliché characters, particularly Richard Jenkins’ stock writer role, who just drift around trying to start their character arcs that will ultimately not wind up becoming completed, within a script that hopes that you won’t notice it forgets about its plot midway through the movie. That’s not to say that some characters don’t have their moments; Christina Hendricks works her character’s grief through her body language and her eyes and therefore gains one scene which is quietly devastating. Also Hoffman rises considerably above the material, which makes his character consistently interesting to watch, even if he isn’t as developed as he should have been.
In defense of the film, it isn’t really awful. Some of the humour works and works well. As I’ve said some of the performances manage to be interesting despite what they were given by the script, and also one of its attempts at insight into the lives of the characters surprises you as to feeling true rather than contrived. As far as the editing goes… it’s a mixed bag. There are some interesting conversations raised across cuts as two scenarios are juxtaposed against each other. Sometimes you come away from a scene thinking about what comparisons the film may be drawing between ‘X’ and ‘Y’. Then again, at other times it links things together that really say very little and feel more like concepts that are being played with but never were fully developed.
In fact the whole film feels like a concept that hasn’t been drafted enough. God’s Pocket is two drafts away from being a really good film. In theory it has a lot going for it; a great cast, probing looks into the everyman’s life, mixed in with a discussion on life, death and grief, with a healthy dollop of black comedy to spice things up. There’s so much room for greatness here but nearly every scene feels rough around the edges when it cuts too abrasively or slightly mistimes a joke. It’s a real shame but the movie isn’t completely unwatchable as it is. You’ll get a few decent laughs out of it and it’s worth seeing for the work Hoffman has put into it.
What is the film’s greatest strength? Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance.
Its greatest weakness? Just how uncertain and faltering this movie this.
Would I see it again? I’ll pass on seeing this one again I think.
Knock out your thoughts in the comment box below!