The title summons forth all sorts of jokey impulses, not to mention visions of dumb Hollywood studio comedies or aching indie projects a lot more pat and self-satisfied, but the spare, intimate Good Dick proves that, well, size doesn’t matter. The story centers around a sullen, emotionally deadened, pathologically introverted young woman (multi-hyphenate Marianna Palka) and an equally adrift Los Angeles video clerk (Jason Ritter, below) who slowly draws her out of her claustrophobic world. At first he merely recommends more artistically satisfying pornography, but soon he’s camping outside her apartment and pursuing a relationship with her. After chipping away at her sexual antipathy and deflecting her prodigious flashes of anger with Job-like patience, the two reach an impasse. The question for both: is it permanent, or just a final hurdle en route to more firmly rooted happiness?
If Tidal-era Fiona Apple were able to spawn a movie, Good Dick would be it; it’s essentially a threadbare character drama of swallowed anger and despair, but studded with moments of dark humor and a few nice supporting turns that make it seem fleshed-out and real. Writer-director Palka also doesn’t use a limited budget as an excuse to punt on production value; the movie is gorgeously, smartly shot by Andre Lascaris, in a manner that feeds the shuttered worldview of its wounded protagonists, who are a couple in real life. Unconcerned with and unburdened by traditional notions of both feminine centeredness and masculine chivalry, Good Dick is about awakening to the notion of a life lived looking forward, and how one good, hard… friendship (what did you think I was going to say?) can serve as a tethering lifeline in a sea of intra-personal turmoil. The other stuff? Benefits, don’tcha know… (Morning Knight/Present Pictures, unrated, 86 minutes)