If this talented actor doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination in the next five years, I’ll eat my press packet, staples and all. You might remember him as a silent, mop-headed teenager named Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine or the weird preacher Eli Sunday in There Will be Blood. In this year’s Filmfest he starred in two excellent films: A Good Heart and The Extra Man. In one he is Lucas, in the other Louis, and in both he plays a tall, skinny young man who seems only distantly connected to the real world. He looks out of continuously perplexed eyes, as if he finds it difficult to cope with the weird characters around him.
In The Extra Man Kevin Kline is Harry Harrison, an older, svelte gigolo who is looking for someone to share the rent in his brownstone Manhattan walk-up. Louis Ives (Paul Dano) has newly arrived in the city driving his father’s antique convertible. He moves in and gradually becomes acquainted with Harrison’s idiosyncrasies such as doing morning gyrations, collecting Christmas-tree balls, or painting socks on his feet. In a pinch, he introduces Louis to his elderly lady friend with whom he has an “extra man” relationship. Slowly, Louis learns about this world of money and high society and the need for an escort. Crazy Gershon Gruen (John C. Reilly) also lives in the building. He is an unkept hairy hermit who sings (Reilly really does sing his own songs, excellently).
In The Good Heart homeless Lucas (Dano) meets bar-owner Jacques (Brian Cox) in the hospital. The former is there due to attempted suicide, the later because of a heart attack. Jacques, foreseeing the possible need for an heir should heart failure kill him, adopts Lucas off the street, provides a bed in the room next to the bar and slowly trains him to become a bar keeper. Lucas questions many of the rough man’s customs, brings a girl friend into the equation, and slowly learns the techniques of the job; at the same time he causes Jacques to readjust his own brittle, damning view of the world.
The Extra Man is a U.S. film directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman; The Good Heart is an American-Icelandic-Danish co-production by Dagur Kåri. Both are not mainstream Hollywood but in both the main characters slowly learn to love and depend on each other.
Dano, just 26 years old, began filming at age 12, studied literature (but not acting) in a small college in Manhattan. He plays guitar, sings in a rock band called Mook and lives in New York City. Watch for his upcoming films: For Ellen (2010) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011).
Smart aleck remarks from A Good Heart:
“Why can’t you just die!”
“You look as good as a government check.”
“From now on, you’re my student, like Karate Kid.”
“The closest I’ve come to sexual activity is brushing my teeth.”
“We need to get him penguin-ized” (at the clothing store)
“You’re Jules Verne’s great-great-grandson. You can do it. Think of the pressure.”
“You’re not a natural when it comes to hostility and arrogance but in time it will come.”
“A bar is no place for women; they get the cafeteria and the patisserie.”
“Broccoli is the incarnation of a fart.”
“That’s why we call you a patient: because you have to be patient.”