It was fine fortune for everyone when the mighty Brian Cox entered his latter-day-Brando phase, somewhere around the time of Rushmore. Suddenly, everything he touched turned to wintry platinum. But even Jor-El himself couldn’t avoid the occasional mediocrity, and The Good Heart dilutes Cox’s gravitas with quirk. He plays Jacques, the desiccated owner of a shithole Manhattan bar hospitable only to regulars (you can tell this was scripted by a romantic outsider, Icelander Dagur Kri). One night, raging at the calming words of a relaxation cassette, Jacques has a stroke, while across town, a homeless young man, Lucas (Dano, doing his stunned thing from Little Miss Sunshine), attempts suicide, as a kitten mewls in sympathy.
How long will it be before these two unfortunates are playing a grab-asstic game of Frisbee on the hospital lawn? The Good Heart requires more than just that from its audience; you might also benefit from a too-sensitive funny bone and a poor memory of films like—well, like Rushmore. A surrogate father-son relationship brews, with Lucas learning the ropes behind the bar while a mysterious French blond (Le Besco) insinuates herself into his life. But let’s not forget Jacques’s pre-existing condition! Making this all semitolerable is a wonderful disregard for political correctness (some of Cox’s rants are vile) and a truly lived-in bar set. Still, you can’t shake the suspicion that Kri finds this all a lot deeper than it is; his gentle comedic sensibility (Noi Albinoi) feels too well-trod by the Jarmuschs of yore, especially when adapted to English.—Joshua Rothkopf
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