The first “read” of God’s Pocket, the feature-film directing debut of actor John Slattery (best known for his Emmy-nominated acting on Mad Men) is that the narrative’s working class criminality contains a metaphor for the inner-working life within Hollywood where there are no secrets, only things people decide to not talk about. Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) isn’t from the neighborhood of God’s Pocket, but he’s secured a coveted identity among the regulars that gets threatened when his stepson (Caleb Landry Jones) winds up dead and his wife (Christina Hendricks) isn’t buying that the death was an accident.
Slattery and co-screenwriter Alex Metcalf take Pete Dexter’s novel and richly realize the literary flourishes, rendering the twists in a routine fashion that feels utterly lived-in. What you have in God’s Pocket is a collection of characters, oddballs and abject losers, sure, but characters with a shred of dignity that matters to them and a willingness to stand up and fight when necessary. And each and every performer in the cast finds and plays the one graceful note in their character like a complex nuanced symphony. On the surface, this story in the wrong hands would have treated them like lint, but Slattery appreciates that the colorful cast of characters inhabiting God’s Pocket are flawed creatures but also beautifully human. (R) Grade: B+