starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro
screenplay by John Slattery & Alex Metcalf, based on the novel by Pete Dexter
directed by John Slattery
by Walter Chaw A few things become clear as John Slattery's God's Pocket unspools unsteadily in the titular, fictional Philadelphia slum: that it's perhaps as difficult to adapt Pete Dexter as it is Ray Bradbury, for many surprisingly similar reasons (like him, Dexter's power is in the rhythm and economy of his prose and the poetry of his characters' interior lives); that Philip Seymour Hoffman is irreplaceable and doomed to be remembered for too rarely finding roles worthy of him; and that young Caleb Landry Jones is consistently an astonishment and someone to follow. Indeed, the cast is mostly above reproach; the problems are all in the scripting and directorial decisions by first-timer Slattery that betray a certain indecisiveness in pruning repetitive sequences. It's not a matter of too much patience, but of too little interpretation. As is, it lands somewhere between the voices of Armistead Maupin and Michael Chabon, neither of whom are nearly as dangerous as Dexter, causing one to wonder if God's Pocket wants to be widely loved rather than admired at arm's length. It shouldn't be cuddly or adorable (and it isn't)--but it tries. What's left is another exceptional Hoffman turn wrapped in layers of undifferentiated bland. Maybe it seems that way so often because Hoffman was so difficult to match.