God’s Pocket and Directorial Debuts

God's Pocket

This week sees the release of John Slattery’s directorial debut God’s Pocket. Slattery is better known for his on-screen skills, notably in television’s Mad Men, as well as roles in The Adjustment Bureau and Iron Man 2. John Slattery’s debut is the latest in a long line of actors who have stepped behind the camera following an already successful on-screen career. Here I take a look at previous directorial debuts…

Robert De Niro

After two decades and numerous acolades for his acting skills, Robert De Niro turned director in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. Critically successful if not a commercial smash, A Bronx Tale saw De Niro taking cues from his long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese in terms of themes and style. De Niro’s only other directing credit is The Good Shepherd (2006).

Ben Affleck

After starring in numerous high-profile movies and winning an Oscar for his writing, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut arrived in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone. The film was well-received, although Affleck’s directing skills may have flown under the radar in the UK at that time as the film was not released due to similarities to a high profile case. However if anyone was in doubt of Ben Affleck’s directing abilities, he displayed them ably in 2010’s The Town and 2012’s Argo, for which he was awarded the Best Director Oscar.

Drew Barrymore

Whip It

Former child star and Hollywood stalwart Drew Barrymore directed a documentary for television in 2004. However it was her feature debut Whip It in 2009 which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences as a director. Since then, Barrymore has only stretched her directing muscles with a Best Coast music video, featuring an array of young Hollywood talent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Another former child actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had reinvigorated his acting career with roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception before turning his attention to directing. With a number of shorts under his belt, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut came in 2013 with Don Jon, which he also wrote. Starring in the title role, Gordon-Levitt displayed a promising talent as filmmaker.

God’s Pocket is out in UK cinemas on 8th August 2014.

Film Review: God’s Pocket

God's Pocket

John Slattery’s God’s Pocket is an engaging drama. Its flecks of dark humour are in keeping with the film’s tone.

When Mickey’s stepson dies at work, his troubles begin. With a mourning wife, Mickey also has to contend with a debt he can’t pay, and a body he can’t get rid of…

Based on Peter Dexter’s novel, God’s Pocket is foremost a tale of a blue collar neighbourhood. The film relies on solid writing and well drawn characters to reel viewers in. And for the most part, God’s Pocket is successful in this endeavour.

Main characters in God’s Pocket are well developed. The beauty of the film is that it does not take viewers long to make the measure of them. As the protagonist, Mickey is a convincing outsider in the close-knit community. Moreover, he is well drawn as the down-on-his-luck archetype, whose problems are at least partly self-inflicted.

There are some stereotypes in God’s Pocket, such as Jeanie the unsatisfied housewife or her delinquent son Leon. The veteran newspaper writer Richard Shelburn certainly follows an archetype. Nevertheless, this character brings colour and is entertaining to watch.

The script contains some elements of humour, which are effective despite the sombre setting. The opening sequence works well to immediately give the film shape. The different narrative strands tie in together suitably, whilst still allowing for some colourful characters. The tone of the film is maintained throughout to engulf audiences into the particular environment of the film.

In one of his final role, Philip Seymour Hoffman is as impressive as ever as Mickey. He is ably supported by a very strong cast. Christina Hendricks is well cast as Jeanie, while Richard Jenkins is perfect as Shelburn. John Turturro and Eddie Marsan are great in smaller roles.

God’s Pocket offers great performance and a good screenplay. John Slattery’s directorial debut certainly shows his promise from behind the camera.