Brian Cox stars as Jacques, the curmudgeonly owner of a gritty New York dive bar that serves
as home to a motley assortment of professional drinkers. Jacques is determinedly drinking and
smoking himself to death when he meets Lucas (Paul Dano), a homeless young man who has
already given up on life. Determined to keep his legacy alive, Jacques deems Lucas is a fitting heir
and takes him under his wing, schooling him in the male-centric laws of his alcoholic clubhouse: no
new customers, no fraternizing with customers, and absolutely no women. Lucas is a quick study,
but their friendship is put to the test when the distraught and beautiful April (Isild Le Besco) shows
up at the bar seeking shelter, and Lucas insists they help her out.
Few actors project a subterranean rage like Brian Cox (recognizable from movies as varied as Adaptation
, and X-Men 2
). The Good Heart
is a superb showcase for this underrated actor: as Jacques, the owner of a cloistered bar in New York City, Cox unleashes arias of cantankerous bile on both his customers and Lucas (Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood
), the young homeless man that Jacques has chosen as his protégé. Lucas's sweet nature both touches and infuriates Jacques, but their relationship slowly builds in trust--until, like so many male connections, it's threatened by a woman (French actress Isild Le Besco). Though the plot of The Good Heart
doesn't hold any surprises (and the ending is a little forced), the textures of this movie are incredible. Jacques's dank, smoke-stained bar--filled with a collection of dank, smoke-stained regulars--is filmed in moldering yet lush greens and blues, as if the bar (and the world) were deep underwater. Cox and Dano worked together before in the excellent L.I.E.
; their friendship, shot through with father-son yearnings, is wonderfully affecting. Though Dano and Le Besco are both excellent, Cox seizes his role and turns it into the movie's driving force. It's an outstanding performance, not to be missed. --Bret Fetzer