The Good Heart
Brian Cox and Albert Finney Are the Same Person
Starring: Brian Cox, Paul Dano
By Robert Patrick
“The Good Heart” has the most cloyingly incontinent title involving an organ since Christian Slater’s “Untamed Heart” debuted in theaters, way back in 1993, to a lukewarm opening. The puny lack of irreverence in director Dagur Kari’s double entendre is, under the circumstances, completely worthy of feeling queasy over – that is if you stay for the cankerous reverie of pseudo-climaxes. But I must admit, despite my unchained grievances over a simple story involving a man who rescues – and I say rescues with bold apprehension – a young man from the uncouth tumult of street life, this movie has a most unusual prose; so wavy and ragged the direction, “The Good Heart” has a skewed way of being memorable.
Lucas (Paul Dano) is a vagabond, who is content to perch himself over makeshift mountains of trash and decay. Aided in conversation and affection by only his cat, whose name we never discover, Lucas lives a life of double-dipping his fingers into cans of feline food while ducking under bridges. When the young man attempts to kill himself, he is taken to a hospital, where, due to the unabridged assistance of the staff, he heals both physically and mentally. During his stay, however, he does meet a wily, boisterous old codger named Jacques (Brian Cox), who is admitted to the same hospital room after a heart attack.
The two become unlikely pals, and when Lucas checks out of the facility, they part ways. Because Jacques has the posture of a sack of potatoes and the social adeptness of a cactus, he decides to hunker over, in his bad condition, and hunt down the amiable Lucas to tutor him in becoming the successor of his bar. Jacques knows he wont live much longer, so he instructs his young friend that he will need to take care of his pub after he passes. Lucas, being that he is passively content, adapts his new friend’s lifestyle solely on the basis of feeling obligated to do so.
Because Jacques has the temperament of a landmine, he doesn’t tolerate the indiscriminate friendliness of Lucas. Jacques is content to raise his voice, slam his hand down with the force of a drill bit, then berate whomever is around him. Brian Cox, in his role as the maladjusted old pit bull, makes odiousness his craft; one almost thinks that his frail, crumbling body is simply a wall holding a furious demon back. Paul Dano’s interpretation of Lucas is one of linear simplicity; his character is vacant of evils and only extends his fingers in selflessness. There is a tarnished halo over the boys head that is held up by an ever present amicableness. Both actors are successful in channeling pure good and charcoal evil.
The end of the film isn’t much of a surprise, as the title suggests, but the dirty and caustic road there is bewilderingly enigmatic. Dano’s character is a fascinating one that, if properly authored, could’ve been much more interesting to watch if not pitted against the commonness of the “odd couple” recipe of palpable naiveté and irreparable tyranny. Where did this young homeless man come from? How did he become so effortlessly talented at dehiscing an angry old man?
“The Good Heart” is an eye-roller, especially during the temple-rubbing finale, but there are a few ridiculously hilarious lines spewed from the mouth of Brian Cox. And Paul Dano’s performance is interesting, though he does look, when having long locks of hair, like Jason Mewes from “Mallrats.” Viewers should expect a lot of verbal clattering between Cox and his bar’s patrons, a few loose ends in the plot, and a lot of dirty looking visuals.
It is better than “Untamed Heart” and worse than “Wild at Heart.”