Take a Drink: for poetic speech and/or narration
Take a Drink: for thievery
Take a Drink: for lies
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Do a Shot: for the fucking Blue Collar Terminator
Do a Two Shots: for the fucking OG Terminator
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
This year seems like it’s been uncharacteristically brutal for actor deaths, and now come the last and penultimate films of too many greats, from James Gandolfini in the recent The Drop to Robin Williams in A Merry Friggin’ Christmas later this year. For Philip Seymour Hoffman, we have already seen A Most Wanted Man, and he will be playing a digitally assisted Plutarch Heavensbee in the last couple Hunger Games flicks.
Maybe they’ll give him one of those Wes Bentley beards
His last lead, though, is God’s Pocket, a blue-collar drama where he works odd jobs and pulls off small cons to support his wife (Christina Hendricks) and ne’er-do-well son (Caleb Landry Jones). When tragedy strikes, though, and his buddy (John Turturro) runs into trouble with the mob, he’s thrown into a succession of tight spots.
If not for Hoffman’s passing this film would be known as Mad Men actor John Slattery’s directorial debut, and he acquits himself well. God’s Pocket is well shot, and Slattery’s obviously got plenty of blue chip actors in his rolodex, but his and the film’s best accomplishment is its creation of the believably skuzzy ecosystem of the God’s Pocket neighborhood, and the dark, dark, darkly comic tone it sets.
God’s Pocket is full of dirty reprobates, no doubt, but they’re the kind of folk that would raise 1400 bucks at the bar to pay for a funeral, or violently defend a person they otherwise don’t have reason to care about, just because an outsider is threatening them. It’s a real community.
Chock full of unexpected badasses
Acting-wise, the supporting cast is solid, and for as much shit as Caleb Landry Jones has gotten, his character is supposed to be a skin-crawling p.o.s., so check and check. It’s Hoffman’s movie, though, and he delivers. He seems more run-down than usual- a man numbed by life, but undogged by it. Through much of the movie, he has a sliver of optimism- that this is the horse, this is the score that’ll make everything alright. Perhaps it’s dumb, it’s all he’s got. Hoffman gets deep under the skin of this character, and his unique genius was evident in how he could communicate so much with just a slight twitch of his facial muscles or movement of his eyes. The extent to which he elevates a just okay film like God’s Pocket shows how truly he was one of the greats.
The film opens with the funeral of a major character, which was utterly pointless. Oh, I guess there’s some mystery as to who clocks Eddie Marsan in the face, but even that ends up being a letdown, and certainly not worth eliminating the shock of the death scene.
Speaking of pointless…
I generally love the guy, but his voiceover-happy drunken newspaper columnist does literally nothing for the plot, which grinds to a halt whenever he mopes around onscreen or does something sniveling and depressing. When he gets his ass kicked later, I couldn’t even muster the emotion to be happy about it.
Speaking of that scene, it represents Slattery tripping around third base, stepping on a rake and hitting himself in the face, then flipping over the first row railing directly into the pillowy bosom of his manager’s wife. He’s spent the whole film portraying the people of God’s Pocket as flawed but realistically three-dimensional people, contrasting that against Jenkins’ patronizing writing, then in one fell swoop basically states that he was right all along- these people are uneducated, vicious cretins after all. Now it becomes clear why Hoffman’s character is pointedly described as not being born there.
Cut out Richard Jenkins and a frankly awful final ten minutes, and you’ve got yourself a good film here. It’s still worth watching for Philip Seymour Hoffman, though, because he elevated everything he ever acted in. Raise your glass to a true cinematic legend.