Despite the image conjoured up by the title of this directorial debut of Marianna Palka - a Glaswegian who has hopped the Atlantic to ply her trade in LA - this is not a sleaze fest or dodgy frat boy comedy, rather it is a delicate, offbeat tale of love for arthouse romantics everywhere.

Palka plays the central role of a young woman - never named - who has, for reasons which gradually become apparent as the film unfolds, let herself go completely. Unkempt and uncaring, she lives on junk food in a filthy apartment. Her only real brush with the outside world comes via her local video store - from which she hires cheap and tacky soft porn that she watches - one hestitates to say, enjoys - at home, alone.

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She may be heading through life on autopilot but the video store clerk who serves her isn't and he quickly becomes intrigued by this buttoned up, fragile creature. With a different brand of loneliness to hers but just as needy in his own way, the unnamed clerk - played by Palka's real-life other half Jason Ritter - sees beyond her bruised psyche and tries to form a connection. Despite being told by one of his chorus of colleagues "you can't talk to the porn customers the same way you talk to the Truffaut ones" he tries to steer her choices. And it isn't long before he has looked up where she lives and begun to try to break down the wall she has built around herself.

This may sound like borderline stalking, but it is all credit to Palka's subtle and heartfelt scripting that it doesn't come across that way. Ritter's clerk demonstrates a puppy dog style of unflinching loyalty and love despite the fact that the girl constantly rebuffs him in the most stringent terms. Despite this, Palka brings such a depth to her own character that the audience, too, comes to see her not as an uncaring ice queen but as a damaged soul cast adrift and desperate for something - or someone - to cling on to. The performances are pitch perfect throughout as Palka and Ritter turn what initially seems as though it may become as simple tale of a sadist and a masochist into something much more finely nuanced.

Despite dealing with some very heavy issues Palka has a surprisingly light touch, levening the more bleak moments with some rich, dark comedy. Romance tales of old were often defined by acts of chivalry or difficult quests and Good Dick's heart lies closer to this historic tradition than any of the feather-light, bubblegum pink romcoms you'll have seen recently at the multiplex. Ultimately, this is an exploration of unconditional love and redemption that deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.

Reviewed on: 29 May 2008
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Good Dick packshot
Offbeat romance between a damaged young woman and with Marianna Palka and Jason Ritter.
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Read more Good Dick reviews:

Darren Amner ***
Chris **1/2


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