Paul Dano and Brian Cox in Depressive Buddy Comedy The Good Heart


“No women,” insists rancorous NYC saloon owner Jacques (Brian Cox) to new trainee Lucas (Paul Dano)—unwittingly echoing a similar unspoken rule instituted by Cox’s pederast to Whitman-quoting Dano, then 16, in their first film together, 2001’s L.I.E. Jacques and Lucas meet in a hospital, where the older man is recovering from his fifth coronary and the younger—homeless and styled like the creature behind the Dumpster in Mulholland Drive—from a suicide attempt. With no concern for character, plot, tone, or purpose, Icelandic writer-director Dagur Kári (2003’s Nói) is content merely to play Jacques’s old-coot misanthropy (instantly wearying) against his protégé’s forbearance (which the usually talented Dano confuses with autism), resulting in a sloppy, desultory, depressive buddy comedy the color of beer-infused pee. The arrival of an actual female (À Tout de Suite‘s Isild Le Besco, wasted in her first role in English) disrupts the homosocial order, but not the filmmaker’s bad instincts: A hit-and-run caused by the retrieval of a pet leads to a literalization of the already maudlin title, and Kári’s smug little arthouse offering ends up covered in Nicholas Sparks goo.