Film: The Hero (2017)
Stars: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katharine Ross
Director: Brett Haley
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars
I'll See You in My Dreams, which featured a breathtaking piece-of-work from Blythe Danner and a subtle, sexy performance from Sam Elliott (who was Oscar-worthy that year in Grandma, in my opinion). It made sense, therefore, for Haley to reunite with Elliott again since he'd found so much to deliver last time, and my love for the previous film made me hit this movie even though the trailers left me wondering how there could possibly be any way that the film could rise above the cliches being offered up by the writers. Unfortunately lightning didn't strike twice here, and while Elliott continues to be an actor of distinction, he cannot save this film from falling into horribly cliched dreck.
(Spoilers Ahead) The movie centers around Lee Hayden (Elliott), a former matinee idol who is most famous for his role in The Hero, an iconic western star who is still famous, but more in the used-to-be-famous sort of way than someone current. He lives a pretty nonchalant life of marijuana, occasional friendship with his weed dealer Jeremy (Offerman) and fruitless calls to his agent. This all changes when he receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from a random Western Film Society (you know, one of those random awards groups that seems to pop up every year around December to honor people that might be in the hunt for an Oscar nomination), and meets a young woman named Charlotte (Prepon), all the while dealing with terrible news from his doctor that he may be dying. The film follows him as he finds a brief flash of stardom and tries to reconnect with his daughter Lucy (Ritter).
The movie has so much potential in the early scenes that it's difficult to watch it eventually fall off the rails. Lee Hayden, as represented, is a sad reminder of Hollywood's cruel spit-out-culture. Hayden, as played by Elliott, is not a screen icon like Norma Desmond but instead an actor who was a big name briefly and used it to have a sustainable career-think someone like Ryan O'Neal or Burt Reynolds rather than an icon like Robert de Niro or Paul Newman. And yet, he's also not a troubled star in the sense of being an alcoholic or emotionally abusive or depressed or broke, as we so oftentimes see in these types of movies. Lee Hayden lives in a beautiful house, has a quiet life of retirement, and while he dreams of getting one more role (and has the chops for it), is also fine continually doing BBQ voice ads and being someone "who used to be famous."
Unfortunately, the film doesn't mine this juxtaposition, and instead decides to focus almost exclusively on cliches that feel like a poor man's version of The Wrestler. Elliott is the sole reason to watch the film, so wonderfully lived-in he is, but he can't rise above the cliched dialogue and predictable performances of his costars. Prepon, Ritter, and Offerman shouldn't be faulted too harshly here as they're playing both personas of their public images as well as roles that don't need names they're so stock, but none of them give anything interesting or new to these parts. Katharine Ross' only major scene is interesting, as she finds a shared history with Elliott (perhaps because as a former matinee idol herself, she can understand Hayden the character better than any of Elliott's other costars), but she's too limited in her role. The film itself covers no new ground, and none of the supporting characters connect enough for the payoffs that Haley wants the movie to achieve. Elliott is too good to give this one-star, but this feels like a truly wasted effort for a longtime character finally getting another shot at a leading role.
Those are my thoughts-how about yours? Did anyone feel like Elliott saved the film, or are you with me that this was a wasted opportunity? Where do you think Haley/Elliott should go next in their careers? Share your thoughts below!