The Good Heart

The Good Heart


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There is something noble about grumpy old men who make no pretence at social niceties and treat people as they find them, with disdain and suspicion. “We are not here to save people,” Jacques (Brian Cox) tells Lucas (Paul Dano). “We are here to destroy them.”

Jacques owns one of those rust dusty, character blown, beer-slopped bars off Lower East Shit Street in New York, where middle-aged loners hang out and women never go. He makes no attempt at giving the place a welcoming touch. Even the thought sticks in his craw. When he’s not insulting the clientele, he’s abusing his health with booze and fags, not to mention raging against the machine – any machine.

In real life such a guy would be arrested for politically incorrect outbursts and racist taunts. In movie life he is considered a comic turn, like Alf Garnett, or Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. For an actor of Cox’s temperament Jacques is a gift, gratefully received and played at full volume. The trouble is someone – in this case the director – has to write a story around him and that’s where A Good Heart falls down.

Jacques adopts Lucas, a down-and-out failed suicide, who simply wants to do good. Bad choice, you might think, and you would be right. Jacques teaches his protégé the skills of being a barman and a curmudgeon. He succeeds in the former (up to a point) but fails in the latter. Lucas wanders about, as if half baked, so naïve he could be mentally retarded, continuing to be nice. “You’re not a natural at hostility and arrogance,” Jacques tells him. “Don’t worry. It will come.”

Enter, out of a rain storm, a pretty blonde French girl, called April (Isild Le Besco). She has been fired as an air hostess and has nowhere to go, which seems odd since she must have been staying somewhere between flights. Naturally, Lucas takes pity. Jacques, on the other hand, names her “the bitch” and gives her 24 hours to get the hell out. Much anger, shouting and insensitive language follows. Jacques has yet another heart attack and the wimp gets lucky.

Apart from Cox giving it large, there is nothing to this film except sentimentality in disguise. Oh, and a duck a called Estragon.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2010
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A barman tries to help a young homeless man by teaching him to be tougher, but finds his own nature changing in the process.
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Director: Dagur Kári

Writer: Dagur Kári

Starring: Brian Cox, Paul Dano, Isild Le Besco

Year: 2009

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Denmark, Iceland, US, France, Germany


EIFF 2010

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