By: Jessica Goddard
The Hero is a fine movie, but nothing particularly groundbreaking. Sam Elliott stars as the lonely, burnt-out actor Lee Hayden, who deals with his pancreatic cancer diagnosis by avoiding it completely. He spends his days smoking pot with his dealer (Nick Offerman) and standing at the ocean shoreline, brooding. His relationship with his daughter (Krysten Ritter) is awful because he was “always away”, and his life is completely devoid of romantic love until Charlotte (Laura Prepon) shows up and pursues him out of nowhere, despite being half his age.
Indeed, it’s hard to escape how obliviously self-indulgent the concept is, from start to finish. This is a man who has too much pride to admit to his few loved ones that he has cancer in the first place, and we watch as he unappreciatively dismisses the gesture of a lifetime achievement award coming from a more modest community. Of course you empathize with his struggle to find meaningful acting work in his 70s, but Lee spends the whole movie obsessed with his legacy, and that objective can only generate so much pity.
The film tries to balance a bizarre contradiction – it seems to want to portray Lee’s melancholia as realistic and recognizable and true-to-life, but then the younger, beautiful Charlotte just, kind of, shows up and throws herself at Lee, for reasons that are a little hard to accept. Charlotte isn’t quite your classic “manic pixie dream girl”, but she’s pretty damn close. This character falls out of the sky just to make Lee feel wanted and that he has something to live for. To the writers’ credit, the age difference is addressed on more than one occasion, but it’s still not enough to make the dynamic look any less questionable.
Script aside, the cast here is excellent. Even based on looks alone, the casting is spot-on with each character exuding that comfortable L.A. confidence to inject just the right amount of necessary grit. Elliott’s performance is heartfelt and precise, and Prepon is sharp and compelling as always.
The Hero is adequate, but it’s indecisive. It’s not clear what this film is trying to say, but then again maybe the portraiture itself is meant to be enough. In any case, for a movie that focuses so heavily on legacy, it’s not very memorable.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod