Scarpato was not born-and-bred in this grim working class neighborhood. He
married into it. That makes the locals dismiss Scarpato as an outsider. He also
stands out because he has what passes for a regular job—boosting trucks for the
local syndicate. Unfortunately, his modestly connected life will be completely
upended in John Slattery’s God’s Pocket (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
dotes on his wife Jeanie and gamely tolerates her thuggish grown son, Leon. When
the knuckle-dragging Leon makes one racist joke too many at his warehouse job,
Scarpato finds himself short of funds to cover a proper funeral. Determined to
protect the wrench-wielding Lucien “Old Lucy” Edwards, the foreman attributes Leon’s
less than tragic death to a workplace accident. However, for reasons that
remain obscure, Scarpato’s grieving wife is convinced there is more to the
story (maybe she has what they used to call the
course, oily funeral parlor proprietor Smilin’ Jack Moran is not about to cut
Scarpato a break. The small-timer’s partner, Arthur “Bird” Capezio also needs
an infusion of fast cash to pay-off his loan shark. However, instead of pursuing
caperish high jinks, Pocket is far
too preoccupied with the boozy ruminations of local columnist Richard
Shellburn, who will be writing a story on Leon to make up for the newspaper’s
slipshod handling of his death notice.
there are times Richard Jenkins’ in-character narration sounds like it might be
intended as a parody of the PBS NewsHour’s
pretentious video essayists. The fact that it is hard to tell whether the
film is going for laughs or not is obviously problematic. Slattery often deliberately
aims for absurdist humor (involving Leon’s corpse), but consistently falls
short. Only John Turturro reliably hits his comedic marks as Capezio, a role he
could probably play in his sleep.
the late Philip Seymour Hoffman completely transforms himself into the sad
hound dog Scarpato, but the character is so dull on the page, it hardly seems
worth his efforts. Likewise, Christina Hendricks, Slattery’s Mad Men associate, really has nothing to
do as Mother Scarpato except cry and jut. At least Eddie Marsan does his weaselly
shtick as Smilin’ Jack.
There are two or three truly electric scenes in Pocket (keep your eye on that foreman),
but they are surrounded by a whole lot of blah. We have been to movie
neighborhoods like the Pocket before and we have certainly seen them done better.
Considering how undistinguished this petty gangster morality tale is and the
galloping awfulness of Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, perhaps it is time to declare a temporary moratorium on Pete
Dexter adaptations. Sure to disappoint Hoffman’s fans hoping for something
heavier and more significant, God’s
Pocket opens tomorrow (5/9) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Eddie Marsan, John Turturro, Pete Dexter, Philip Seymour Hoffman