The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about The Hero is that it is this year’s Birdman. This is one of the biggest compliments I could give a film. The story centers around an aging Western icon, Lee Hayden who, thanks to a viral video has a chance at reviving his career in the movies. Along the way he has to deal with problems that might prevent him from further cementing his legacy. Throughout the film he deals with a different set of characters, all of them making us laugh, cry, and think.
The Hero starts and finishes with Sam Elliott’s performance. Director Brett Haley specifically made this movie for Elliott and it is quite obvious throughout the duration of the film. On display for a lot of the film is Elliott’s voice which is one of the most recognizable voices on the Planet. But mostly the film lets Elliott act. Many people are saying that this is a career defining performance by Elliott and it’s hard to disagree. One scene stands out when Elliott is auditioning for a part and gets so caught up in it that he starts sobbing. It’s absolutely haunting and stays with you for the duration of the movie.
Also worth mentioning is its stacked cast that includes the likes of Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter and Katharine Ross (Elliott’s wife). It was certainly a surprise to see this awesome group of character actors get together. Prepon was interesting as Charlotte, who often brought out Hayden’s softer side. Elliott and Prepon had great chemistry, which was the main focus for quite a bit of the film. Another interesting character in the film was Hayden’s estranged daughter Lucy (portrayed by Ritter), who still held things against her Dad from his days of being superstar.
The relationship between Lee and Lucy wasn’t looked into enough for my liking but Ritter still did a lot with her limited amount of screen time. Finally that brings us to the comic relief of the film, Nick Offerman’s Jeremy, who is Lee’s pot dealer. Seeing Sam Elliott and Nick Offerman smoke weed together was as brilliant as it sounds. Offerman is there for the most part to help things stay light when things start to get a bit too dark and he does his job beautifully.
Director Brett Haley improves a lot on his last film, I’ll See You in My Dreams, and that was also a really well done movie. The cinematography is stunning at times and it is quite awesome what Haley did with such a limited budget. Moonlight proved you don’t need a complicated story and big budget to make a good film and The Hero reinforces that idea. Haley is an up and coming director that everyone should be looking at. He also co-wrote the screenplay which is simple but elegant, a lot like the movie Haley has made.
The Hero is psychedelic, funny and deeply resonate. Sam Elliot shines throughout and it hits all the right notes. It’s not often you find a film that has a 70 year old as a main character and this film leaves me wanting more stories featuring older actors. Brett Haley does a brilliant job and honours the icon that is Sam Elliott. For film fans and fans of the hearing the smoothest voice on Planet Earth, The Hero is a must watch.
The Hero is playing in select theatres in Toronto on Friday, June 23, 2017. It opens across the rest of Canada on June 30, 2017.