Cinequest 20 Opening Night: The Good Heart

Cinequest 20 is my 10th Cinequest, since I first attended in 2001. Back then the opening and closing films were at the Camera 3, whereas now they are at the gorgeous California Theater. This year the introductory time was spent more on prepared clips (pretty good) than on local celebrities trying to make comments relevant to the festival (usually a waste of time). I also liked how they brought out the filmmakers and/or stars for a few films that will be showing at the festival.

The Good Heart was the opening film, and this was its U.S. premiere. The main two characters are Jacques (Brian Cox) and Lucas (Paul Dano). Jacques owns a bar, though he doesn’t seem to have ever bought into that whole “the customer is always right” thing—in fact, he’s almost 180° from that philosophy. Lucas is a man who lives in an improvised shelter on the streets under some overpasses, who has taken in a pet kitten in the opening scenes of the film. They meet in the hospital, and Jacques decides Lucas should help him at the bar. Both comedy and drama ensue.

The people around me who were talking after the film all seemed to think the film was good, but to me the characters seemed cartoonish. Since Cox and Dano have been excellent before, I blame this on the writing and maybe a little on the directing. Since the director was the writer, I guess it doesn’t matter which. Interestingly, the director is Icelandic and also directed Noi the Albino, which I saw in late 2003, and liked better than this one.

In Adaptation., Cox played real-life author Robert McKee. According to IMDb, in that film McKee says “Your characters must change, and the change must come from them.” In this film, the characters do change, but I didn’t get any sense that the change came from them. And that’s the biggest problem. I’ll give it a weak out of , mostly for the entertainment of watching Cox.

Seen on 2/23/2010 at Cinequest.

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