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An ailing movie star comes to terms with his past and mortality.
Director: Brett Haley
Writers: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Stars: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter
THE HERO is directed by Brett Haley who also directed I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS another romantic drama with a senior protagonist. THE HERO is a more serious venture as its main character an ageing star called Lee Hayden (Sam Elliot) has just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he has to comes to terms with his life and legacy.
When THE HERO begins, Lee Hayden stands on the beach watching the waves of the ocean roll on shore. It is a familiar scene to those familiar with the films of Sam Elliot. That scene is reminiscent of one of Elliot’s most successful films – THE LIFEGUARD in which he plays the title role of a lifeguard. He sports the same bushy moustache in that film as in THE HERO, a facial feature that made his Lee Hayden character famous.
THE HERO begins on a very pessimistic note. Besides just being diagnosed with cancer, Lee is a listless character, always smoking weed or getting high on mushrooms. He is trying to come to grip with his relationship with his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). He does the odd commercial (like the BBQ sauce radio commercial that bookends the story). The rest of the time is spent hanging out with his drug dealer buddy.
When things get this bad, nothing can get worse. So when Lee finds a girl half his age responding to his request of a date, he slowly gets his spirits uplifted. The two eventually end up in bed. At this point in the film, the film’s pessimism disappears. And one can see why. It is an ageing man’s fantasy to have a young girl fall in love (and having sex) with him. But when he visits her at a club doing stand-up comedy, her jokes on making love with an older man turns him off understandably, and he storms off.
At one point in the film the two attend his life achievement award presentation. His speech goes viral giving him instant fame for a short period of time. He gets a film audition which he goes to read a script. The script concerns a father being rejected by his daughter, obviously a reflection of what is happening to Lee in real life. As expected, he cannot go through reading the script emotionally, breaking down and losing the part.
It is unclear where Haley’s film is leading only till the very last third of the film. It is frustrating to watch the film go from pessimism to optimism back to pessimism and then hope again. Lee’s speech at his achievement awards ceremony is preachy, him talking about life and people being grains of sand – enough of the metaphors.
The biggest metaphor of all is the film reflecting the real life of actor Sam Elliot. Elliot is himself a character just like Lee Hayden, fairly but no too famous whose life body of films could have gotten him a lifetime achievement award in some small film community.
THE HERO ends up as another sad feature about an old fart who should but cannot get a hold of his own life. It is difficult to feel sympathetic for someone who smokes weed half the time and fails to meet up with expectations when given a second chance.
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