God’s Pocket

John Slattery’s directorial feature debut has an exaggeratedly mournful air, and not just for recording one of the last performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The plot of God’s Pocket turns on a sudden death and subsequent processing thereof, with characters struggling mightily and miserably to get the story straight, slant it just so in the local rag, pay for the funeral, and generally restore the tribal order of their grim and gritty blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood. Adapting Pete Dexter’s novel with Alex Metcalf, Slattery has the qualifications to attract good actors, including Hoffman, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, and Eddie Marsan, but treats their characters with an uncertain blend of empathy and ridicule. Playing its intrinsic violence both for pathos and laughs, the story mostly just plods along, enlivened neither by actorly plumage of working-class significance nor by occasional shtick in the style of Weekend at Bernie‘s. The added presence of Slattery’s Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks reveals him reflexively and unflatteringly transposing that show’s dynamics into a lower socioeconomic register: Tragically let down by the men in her life, her character has little to do but perform a gradual, grief-stricken surrender. That leaves the audience with barely any choice but to do likewise.