Wednesday, July 12, 2017

[Review] The Hero

Sam Elliott leads the way in The Hero, a familiar but nicely layered portrait of an aging star longing for the success of their prime.

Lee (Elliott) is a former Western movie icon. Nowadays, he'd just like to land a role that doesn't involve voicework for BBQ sauce commercials. He also gets invites to Lifetime Achievement Award ceremonies, but they only add salt to his wounds. As far as his personal life goes, he's trying to get back in touch with his estranged daughter (played by Krysten Ritter), and he even sparks up a relationship with a spontaneous woman named Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who's around his daughter's age (kind of awkward). Oh yeah, and he's just received that damned cancer diagnosis.

Sam Elliott's fantastic performance is the main draw here. It's magnificently graceful. It's deeply self-deprecating. And there's a lot of emotional turmoil behind those thick eyebrows and mustache. The film is interspersed with Western-style dream sequences that not only intensify Lee's nostalgia, but also function as metaphors for him attempting to run away from his own fate.

But despite the sad story and melancholy tone, there are plenty of sunnier moments along the way. Laura Prepon's character is a beam of light, who also spends her nights as a stand-up comic, which sets up some unexpected appearances from Ali Wong and Cameron Esposito. Then there's all the amusing times when Lee goes over to the house of his only friend (played by Nick Offerman in manchild form) to smoke a lot of weed, watch movies, and relieve stress.

The Hero doesn't quite meet the greatness of its avuncular films (like The Wrestler or Crazy Heart), and its ending doesn't completely satisfy, but it's still moving to witness Sam Elliott in such stellar form.

( 8/10 )

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