Literally funereal from its first scene, God’s Pocket is a bit of site-specific miserablism brought to life by an ensemble whose every actor — the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as a connected schlub, Christina Hendricks as his grief-stricken wife, John Turturro as Hoffman’s only real friend, and Richard Jenkins as the lecherous, alcoholic reporter who serves as the community’s de facto voice in a local paper — is more interesting than the part he or she is playing.
They bet on sure-thing horses that aren’t, haunt the local watering hole until last call, and wax poetic about the old days, though there’s little reason to believe things were ever much better; everyone is in a hole and determined to keep digging.
Theirs is a tribal mentality that’s wary of outsiders and quick to turn on members who don’t maintain the status quo, and to be banished from God’s Pocket is usually to take a dirt nap.
The story, which follows Hoffman as he scrambles to piece together the $6,000 needed to cover his stepson’s funerary costs, could have worked well as a pitch-black comedy, but first-time director John Slattery (Mad Men‘s Roger Sterling) takes the material so seriously that the mood never changes much after leaving the funeral home.
Hoffman’s character’s workaday melancholy, suggested in an understated performance, is the clearest expression of the neighborhood’s unglamorous refusal to accept its meager lot and quit striving for just a bit more.