Lee Hayden is a veteran actor of Westerns whose career's best years are behind him after his one really great film, "The Hero". Now, scraping by with voice-overs for commercials, Lee learns that he has a terminal prognosis of pancreatic cancer. Unable to bring himself to tell anyone about it, especially his estranged family, Lee can only brood alone as troubling, yet inspiring, dreams haunt him. Things change when he meets Charlotte Dylan, a stand-up comedienne who becomes a lover who inadvertently jump-starts his public profile. Now facing a profound emotional conflict of having a potential career comeback, even as his imminent death is staring him in the face, Lee must finally come to terms with both realities when he finally confesses his situation to the one person he can.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Younger (KYGO Remix)
Written by Salem Al Fakie, Magnus Lidehall, Vincent Fred Pontare and Seinabo Sey
Performed by Seinabo Sey
Courtesy of Virgin Records America Inc.
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises See more »
Tin-Eared and Boring
The Hero often times feels like a Pyrrhic Victory - it showcases the luminous humanism and skill of a veteran actor willing to put in the hard work for a small, intimate film, yet the film itself rings so frightfully artificial that it nearly itself ablaze in tin-eared cliché and slow, art-house minutiae. Prediction: The Hero will be nominated for a token "fifth guy" Golden Globe - not because it deserves it, but because it's so coldly calibrated to make hay and celebrate the life of a much beloved character actor who, let's face it, deserves better than this.
Sam Elliott essentially plays himself i.e. an aging formerly famous cowboy actor who keeps busy mostly through voice work and copious amounts of pot. Thus when his doctor diagnosis him with pancreatic cancer, Lee starts to consider his legacy as well as his relatively cold relationships with friends and family. Adding to the mix of moping and melancholy is Charlotte (Prepon) whose younger comedienne takes a shining to the erstwhile cowboy. "You seem sad," she says while waiting for their mutual pot dealer (Offerman). Seems that's all it takes to make a connection.
The movie unfolds more-or-less how you'd expect. The cowboy trudges through his minor commitments, attempts to make amends with his ex-wife (Ross) and daughter (Ritter) while playing the "Big C" close to his chest. Much ado is made about a lifetime achievement award dolled-out by a western preservation society but its narrative importance is drowned out by surreal reoccurring dreams and a series of extreme close-ups.
It all rings less of subtlety and character-driven composure and more like the film is just going through the motions. Sam Elliott simmers with understated intensity but every other character that orbits him are broadly rendered California-types that repeatedly call him "dude" and "man." The script makes little attempt to give its supporting characters inner life, nor does it give any new dimension to the clichés it collects along Elliott's journey of self-discovery. Instead it takes various plot-threads and makes them feel like padding - bland, boring padding.
Other than Sam Elliott's stage presence, the best that can be said about The Hero is at least it's not the similarly themed The Last Word (2017). While matching that film in the level of poignancy or lack thereof, The Hero is as comfortably dressed down as The Last Word was obnoxiously twee. It opts for the level tone of a gracious elegy western - cordial, wistful, remarkably old-fashioned and elusive.
Yet its that elusiveness that slowly drains The Hero of any of its impact. We're never brought into Lee's head space despite ten minute segments of the aged cowboy smoking pot and discussing the metaphorical implications of a desktop iceberg. What's left then is a movie much like its hero - a funhouse mirror version of emotion masquerading as the real thing.
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