Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Brett Haley
Written by: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katharine Ross
Screened at: Tribeca, NYC, 6/1/17
Opens: June 9, 2017
When the title hero offers to reveal a dream he had—he is out in the desert surrounded by bounty hunters who razz him by noting he had no chance to get away—he is rebuffed by his best friend. His reply? Movies are other people’s dreams. Implied is that we all like movies, so of course we should encourage our pals to hear our dreams and perhaps to attach some Freudian significance. It’s no challenge to see that the dream of Lee Hayden (Sam Elliiott) is not particularly Freudian but simply a look at the roles he had in cowboy pics in better days.
Sam Elliott, who is on record as saying that he couldn’t get a role unless he was on a horse or a motorcycle, performs in the role of Lee Hayden, a has-been, a guy who did OK in Hollywood in the seventies and eighties, but is now looking at his seventy-second birthday (he is 72 in real life and married to Katharine Ross, who has a small part in the film). When he gets a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, one of the worst kinds with a miserable five-year survival rate, he believes it’s time to reassess his life. This opens up the movie for a tsunamis of clichés, both visually and verbally, the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean near his digs in Malibu being one of them. You almost expect Burt Lancaster to show up on the beach with Deborah Kerr.
Another will include a chance to re-connect with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) and to share big fat weed cigar with his dealer friend Jeremy (Nick Offerman). When Jeremy’s customer Charlotte (Laura Prepon) shows up at the house, she finds something stirring in her thirty-something loins for this septuagenarian and agrees to be his date when he attends a lifetime achievement award ceremony from an obscure group, and Lee, working on a big buzz from the Ecstasy in his champagne and a few shots of liquor from the open bar, makes a speech that goes viral.
And oh, is this movie slow, a ninety-three minute slog that director Brett Haley employs to make his hero more soulful to the audience is simply not warranted. Haley, whose “I’ll See You in My Dreams” released in 2015 is about a widow and a former songstress who discover that life can begin anew at any age, is apparently in his métier. But “The Hero” is all about Sam Elliott’s performance. He’s in virtually every scene, his silver-white, wavy hair and iconic mustache apparently all that it takes to win Charlotte’s affection. Like Kathy Griffin, she goes too far in her comedy club shtick about what it’s like to get it on with someone twice her age.
So what’ll it be? Will Lee Hayden call life quits and refuse treatment for the cancer? Or will he go with the Whipple surgery as recommended by his doctor? The answer is not quite clear, as though director Haley may be thinking of a sequel, but the music on the soundtrack gives audience members with a background of classical music the needed clue.
Rated R. 93 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
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