God’s Pocket

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God’s Pocket
swan_very_good
Runtime 88 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in “God’s Pocket.”

From l, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in “God’s Pocket.”

Veteran actor John Slattery makes his feature film directorial debut impressively by converting Pete Dexter’s 1983 novel into a dark, dark film highlighted by wonderful acting by a terrific cast, headlined by Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles.

Sometimes you go to a movie for the story, but occasionally the story takes a back seat to the acting, and that’s what happens here. Along those lines it sort of reminded me of another Hoffman movie, Doubt (2008), in which Hoffman played a priest accused of abusing young children and was joined by a cast that included Amy Adams, Viola Davis, and Meryl Streep, all of whom were at the top of their game. While the story was interesting, what made the movie was the acting.

That’s what is so compelling about this movie. Mickey Scarpato (Hoffman) is married to Jeannie (Christina Hendricks). Her goofy son, Leon (Caleb Landry Jones, in a terrific performance as a really disturbed young man) is killed. Mickey has to foot the cost of the funeral, but he has lots of problems, not the least of which is raising the cash to pay for it.

The performances are mind-blowing. Richard Jenkins is, as usual, terrific as an alcoholic newspaper columnist, and so is Hendricks as Mickey’s disconsolate wife. But even the bit players stand out. Mickey is involved with lots of real scumbags, and the people playing them all give award-quality performances, even though they are a long way from being stars.

A lot of the credit has to go to Slattery who takes this little story and makes it into a film that never once had me looking at my watch. The people in God’s Pocket live drab lives with almost nothing to look forward to. It’s not a happy story, but the acting is something you won’t soon forget.

Neighbors
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Runtime 96 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne in “Neighbors.”

From l, Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne in “Neighbors.”

If you aren’t funny and can’t write or direct, put in lots of scenes that will appeal to 15 year old boys to try to make them titter in embarrassment with sexual themes. That makes them feel sexually wise and adult. That’s what writers (Andrew J. Cohen and Brenden O’Brien) and director (Nicholas Stoller) do here which telegraphs their lack of confidence in their talent by relying on cheap sex jokes and foul language as a substitute for humor.

Aimed at a high school intellect that has just discovered sex, this has little appeal for anyone who can qualify as an adult. Everyone throws F-bombs in virtually every sentence, but that should come as no surprise to followers of Seth Rogen who apparently won’t read a script unless it’s loaded with the F-word. But it seems especially inappropriate when Rose Byrne, who looks like a sweet young mother, populates her vocabulary with the word almost constantly, also.

There are a lot of disgusting rutting scenes as well as hordes of college kids partying. How many times can a director put shots of a naked man on top of a naked woman highlighted by his rear end going up and down? This is entertainment?

But it’s not just stupid, it’s irresponsible. It’s about a young couple, Rogen and Byrne, who live in a house with their infant daughter next to a fraternity house whose president is Zac Efron. In one segment Rogen and Byrne are so upset that they leave their daughter alone in their house and go next door to the fraternity and party all night. Never is it shown how their daughter got along at home alone, or is it brought out that this is a criminally negligent thing to do. In fact the abandonment of their infant daughter is never referred to again.

The older Efron gets, the worse his roles. He’s been in at least one good film, but, maybe because of his appearances in the High School Musical trilogy, apparently the only roles he can get now are those that portray him as a hunk (the film takes pains to have him appear shirtless). He’s really gone downhill since he made such an auspicious appearance in Me and Orson Welles (2008) when he was 21.

This unfunny film has no redeeming value, a complete waste of time.

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