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I attended the North American Premiere of "The Good Heart" at the 2009
Toronto International Film Festival. Brian Cox and Paul Dano (reunited
after the 2001 indie classic "L.I.E.") pull off a tour de force that
left me breathless in this character piece from Icelandic
writer/director Dagur Kári.
The film opens with Lucas (Dano) barely eking out a living in a cardboard box under a rusty highway overpass, with only a scrawny kitten as a companion. Jacques (Cox) runs a worn old bar where he's beginning to take on its characteristics. The two meet and a classic intergenerational arc is set up that carries the film to the end.
The film is dominated by a triumphant performance from Cox, one of the film world's masters. Shot primarily in one interior location, the theatrical nature of the script lends itself to playful interaction between the two leads. The chemistry between Cox and Dano began in 2001 with "L.I.E." and there's still magic in that relationship, forged over time as Dano has matured as an actor and into manhood. Interestingly, there are some references to cars and shaving which have carried over from "L.I.E." to "The Good Heart," intentional or not. Conflict is infused by the sudden appearance of April (Isild Le Besco), who forces the two to take sides even as their friendship is beginning to blossom.
Shot with mostly hand-held camera by cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk, "The Good Heart's" grainy film stock, washed out colors, and natural lighting without compensation for shadows give the film an honest look. A sweet soundtrack is mostly provided by the player piano that holds a prominent place in the bar. It's a clever and amusing device.
A long time in the making, "The Good Heart" spent five years in production with exteriors in New York and interiors in Iceland. Cox's introduction after the screening brought the first standing ovation of the festival.
This is a must see movie - goes on my list all time favorites.
It is not a thriller but there is never a dull moment. It is no comedy either yet there were several occasions where I was laughing so hard that I was almost out of breath. It's difficult to classify.
The script has everything. Excellent plot, really fantastic dialogs, interesting characters, unexpected turns and a surprise ending... a great story and its well told.
The quality is excellent: filming, lighting, soundtrack, props, costumes ... everything.
Brian Cox is fantastic as the grumpy bar owner... Paul Dano is convincing as the homeless young man.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dagur Kari's film The good heart was a good way to start a film festival in my eyes. I just got back from the screening, and although this film i heavily dramatic, i have to say the audience was laughing quite a bit, as was I. Its not a comedy though, just a film that some great comedic reliefs, and does a great job portraying a story of human interaction. In this case, Brian Cox is spectacular as a bitter, foul-mouthed and at times cynical barowner who takes in a homeless man in his early 20s (Dano) who he meets while being roommates with at the hospital where he has his 5th heart-attack. The film's strength lies in its script which gave its talented actors (mainly Cox, but also some talented character actors in the supporting cast who played some regulars at the bar). The cinematography is perfect and has aesthetic qualities, colors that show authenticity of the bar atmosphere. the Score is also quite suitable, and perfectly adds to the whole experience. Dagur Kari created somewhat of a gem with this film. perhaps it was also an advantage that i saw this in an impressive venue, on opening night of cinequest in the "California Theatre" with what seemed like almost 7 or 8 hundred people in attendance.
Brilliantly dark and hilarious. Shot in a bar in Reicuvic, Iceland by
the director of Noi Albinoi, and the two brilliant actors from the
mesmerising L.I.E. With a brilliant performance from Brian Cox.
The director has the way of putting his own Icelandic feel to this movie with its very greenish feel in the artistic shots. which were shot in New York and a mocked-up bar in Reicuvic.
Totally brilliant humour throughout mixed with the serious moody Brian Cox and upbeat Paul Dano, merges together once again to give a good mix.
Definitely the best thing I have seen in the 2010 EIFF, and one I recommend for all to see.
Over the past two to three years, Iceland has mostly made news because
of its economic meltdown and because of an unpronounceable volcano.
Well, I would say that Dagur Kári's movie "The Good Heart" shows that
the island still has a lot to offer us.
The movie tells the story of Jacques (Brian Cox) and Lucas (Paul Dano). Jacques is a short-tempered bartender who suffers a heart attack and is put in a hospital bed next to the derelict Lucas. Jacques decides to take Lucas under his wing and teach him the bar-tending business. Although not the nicest person, Jacques is determined to give Lucas a good life. But when Lucas takes unemployed flight attendant April (Isild Le Besco) his wing, the story gets started on an irreversible path.
The movie has really good character development. Just watching Jacques on the screen made me feel as if I was walking on eggshells. It certainly gave me an idea of what it must be like to be a bartender and have to deal with certain kinds of people every day. Even though Jacques is kind of nasty as a person, we understand why he's like this, and by extension get a sense of what Lucas and April have to put up with.
Like I said, it was a real surprise that much of the funding for "The Good Heart" came from Iceland, and that much of the crew and cast is from the North Atlantic island*. This movie could be seen as the manifestation of Ísland's** potential return from its economic collapse during the past few years. I strongly recommend "The Good Heart" and wish Iceland the best. Lofsöngur!
*Many of the names employed the letter thorn, written Þ (upper case) and þ (lower case).
**That's Iceland's name in Icelandic.
This movie is about Brian Cox... Director Dagur Kari provides a stage. Paul Dano is great being a looking-glass. But Brian Cox's Jacques is monumental, he literally carries the action from the first second he steps in. He energizes the viewer, no matter how one classifies his moral actions. The bar scene is one of surrealistic charm, dwelled by decameronesque characters and maintained as a personal fiefdom by Jacques. The short story on the cover is "A bartender takes a young homeless man in under his wing" but there is so MUCH more to it. Lucas (Paul Dano) represents here a humanity clear of prejudice, pure and immortal. The suicide attempt doesn't stop him. Nor does death itself, his heart symbolically living on in another body. Supporting actress Isild le Besco is somehow incongruous, offering not believable French accented replies. Underwhelming, as her debut movies in France, where her naked skin prevails. Probably a strong actress, I am thinking here Emily Mortimer, or Marie-Louise Parker, or, -if they really wanted a French one, how about Sandrine Kiberlain? -would have done much better. Solidly memorable, Brian Cox gives this movie so much personality and energy that only true talent can offer. In line with Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, Cox is another Musqueteer of a generation of powerful performances from Britain to enchant us. Watch this great movie, and a bar will never look the same to you!
Brian Cox & Paul Dano are a remarkable pairing in a film that doesn't really accomplish much, but somehow remains okay. Jacques, a bitter bartender looking for someone to carry on his legacy stumbles upon Lucas, a homeless young adult who is hopelessly giving. The pairing between the two is what allows the film to float above complete disaster, as their on screen chemistry elevates the otherwise nonexistent storyline to a level slightly beyond entriguing. As Jacques determines to break the kid and turn him into a "proper bartender", one who does not help people but destroys them, he finds a kid unwilling to bend in his giving ways. This changes Jacques, but the seeds of contempt Jacques has planted within Lucas in his "lessons of life" rub a lot deeper. This movie would've easily gotten an 8 had it ended about 5 minutes earlier. I must say that there was a scene in the beginning where I knew exactly what would happen at the end of the film, and this not only cripples any film revolving around this as a plot device, it destroys the very purpose of the entire piece. The only reason to watch this film is Brian Cox & Paul Dano's amazing on screen chemistry, and that alone places this film slightly above palatable.
Here's a great line: Life's too short for lousy cars.
This is uttered while watching his old station wagon being crushed at the junkyard.
Here's a bit that's hilarious because the delivery is subtle: "It's amazing how broccoli always makes you f@rt.
In a way, broccoli is the embodiment of f@rt.
If you could capture a piece of f@rt; materialize it; I imagine it would look pretty much like broccoli.
the incarnation of f@rt." The movie kept me laughing and crying throughout.
It is a drama and so-called independent film (with Icelandic
screenwriter/director), but it is not oppressive, but includes plenty
of comic moments. The screenplay is witty and distinct (with some
predictability though) and all the cast is good (supporting actors) or
excellent (leading actors Brian Cox and Paul Dano). They are masterly
both together and separately, you constantly feel chemistry between
them - does not matter if their characters agree or disagree.
Highly recommended, although the film is not to everybody's taste: most of event occur in a bar, scenes including women are infrequent, the ending is ambivalent. But still, this film deserves far more attention, praise and distribution, primarily in northern parts of Europe and America.
French-born Icelandic screenwriter and director Dagur Kári's third
feature film which he wrote, premiered in the Special Presentations
section at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival in 2009, was
shot on locations in New York, USA and Iceland and is a
France-Denmark-Iceland-USA-Germany co-production which was produced by
Icelandic producers Skuli Fr. Malmquist and Thor S. Sigurjónsson. It
tells the story about a cynical owner of a bar in New York who after
having his fifth heart attack ends up at hospital where he meets a
homeless man named Lucas who has been committed due to a suicide
attempt. After Lucas is released from the hospital, Jacques picks him
up from the streets, insists that he becomes his apprentice and let's
him stay in a room at his bar.
Finely and subtly directed by Icelandic filmmaker Dagur Kári Pétursson, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints, draws a heartily portrayal of a friendship and somewhat father-son-like relationship between a middle-aged bartender with prospects and an altruistic vagrant. While notable for it's atmospheric milieu depictions, fine production design by Icelandic production designer and actor Hálfdan Pedersen and cinematography by Danish cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk, this humorous, somewhat surreal and existentialistic drama depicts two mindful studies of character and contains a cheerful score by the Icelandic band Slowblow.
This multinational and multilingual independent film about a rare kinship between two men from different generations and lifestyles which is tested by the sudden arrival of a woman named April who shows up out of nowhere, is impelled and reinforced by it's cogent narrative structure, subtle character development and continuity, quick-witted dialog and the prominent, understated, engaging and commendable acting performances by American actor Brian Cox, American actor Paul Dano and French actress Isild Le Besco. An intimate, unsentimental and diverse character piece which gained, among other awards, the award for Best Director Dagur Kári at the Edda Awards in 2011.
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