Mickey’s not from God’s Pocket and people not from God’s Pocket wouldn’t understand, as we are frequently reminded. It’s a poor, uneducated and frequently sozzled working-class community bound together by the various illegal, semi-legal and morally dubious ways of making a living.
The film by John Slattery (of Mad Men fame) starts with the shocking image of young Leon in his padded coffin surrounded by grieving family and friends, and then steps back three days to show Caleb Landry Jones’ scary Leon as a violent, drugged up racist. His mother Jeanie, played by Christina Hendricks, doesn’t believe his death was the result of an accident and in the process of trying to discover the truth meets up with a sleazy journalist played brilliantly by Richard Jenkins. It’s a black comedy, with a sometimes uneven tone that makes for slightly uncomfortable viewing at times.
The film is at its best when Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Mickey is on screen, hanging about with his mate Arthur (John Turturro) and in bars and back rooms as he tries to raise the money for Leon’s padded coffin. It’s a masterful performance that sadly turned out to be one of his last. Eddie Marsan is a great undertaker and Turturro’s acting was thankfully good enough to erase what could have been a permanent impression of him as a fading gigolo in his last appearance at Arthouse, so that was very good indeed.
Once again, in American films about struggling working-class communities in the 1980s women don’t fare well. Christina Hendricks’ talents are wildly under-used in a role with little character except to tolerate sleazy men. Hooray for Arthur’s Aunt ‘Sophie’ played by Joyce Van Patten for not taking any nonsense from a couple of macho hardnuts.