The Good Heart
Some people need more caffeine than others to start the day …

Theatrical Release Date: 05/21/2010
Director: Dagur Kári
Cast: Brian Cox, Paul Dano, Isild Le Besco

When I hear there’s a film with Brian Cox, my instinct is to see it. Whether it’s drama or comedy, the man delivers time and again. Adding Paul Dano gives me pause however, as his best role is still “Little Miss Sunshine” – and he’s mute for the first half of the film. So upon sitting down to view “The Good Heart”, I had guarded expectations and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, the quirky sensibilities that work well in foreign films don’t always translate to American characters and such is the case with writer/director Dagur Kári’s first English language feature. There are essentially only three main characters, and all of them exhibit an offbeat manner of carrying themselves that feels forced rather than endearing.

Cox does a fine job of being the curmudgeon with a soft spot but aside from allowing some of his vulnerabilities to shine through eventually, his character doesn’t go on any real emotional journeys. Dano mumblecores his way through another role and if someone had said his bits were deleted scenes from “Gigantic“, I’d wouldn’t have argued much.

Then we get to Isild Le Besco. An almost ethereal late addition to the story, she wafts in and out with practically no explanation and is completely absent from any of the film’s resolution. While I understand needing her as a plot device, it’s a shame to see a film so intent on bringing an intimate portrayal of character to the screen that hers is so short changed.

There are some fun moments, most notably the interactions between the patrons in the bar that Cox owns. Each of the regulars are an eclectic mix of personalities that liven up the generally dark atmosphere of the project overall.

But in essence, what Kári has done is stretch a short film into feature length by hook and by crook. There isn’t nearly enough story to support the run time and much of the middle section of the film could have been trimmed with a hatchet and the audience would still get the same amount of closure once the end credits roll.

The film revolves around the idea of creating a circular framework and being so concerned with that restraint makes it almost impossible for “The Good Heart” to make the grade, earning a 2 out of 5. Independent film fans are definitely the intended audience and catching this on DVD or one of the movie channels later on down the road is a much better choice should you be interested.