Where God Left His Shoes Muddles Vérité and Adult-Contemporary

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Where God Left His Shoes
Directed by Salvatore Stabile
IFC Films
Opens December 12, IFC Center

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Undercard boxer Frank Diaz (John Leguizamo) is a ring slickster whose lack of jaw and heart has kept his looks while eroding his self-worth. He's supporting a family on one of those "one paycheck away from the street" budgets when that one paycheck doesn't come. From here, Where God Left His Shoes overlaps with classics of hapless patheticism: a little Bicycle Thief, a little "No room at the inn." The body of the film takes place on Christmas Eve, as Frank drags his preadolescent stepson (David Castro) under turnstiles, borough to borough, trying against deadline to find a job that will satisfy the family's application for a new apartment. Leguizamo, working at a scramble, gets more on-screen traction than in recent memory; the father-son rapport is bullyish-fraternal, including raunchy ribbing about girls and schoolyard sex-ed ("You can't go raw-dog these days"). Stabile, a Brooklyn native with a résumé in TV production, knows how to line up a permit and scout out perfect South Brooklyn Italian manors and melancholic intersections. He gets interesting scenes, too—a Halloween eviction, the backdown of a suspiciously kid-friendly cot-jockey at the homeless shelter—though the movie's vérité is diluted by a cozy, adult-contemporary empathy with those less fortunate that left me hearing "Another Day in Paradise."

 
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