In theaters from writer/director Brett Haley and The Orchard is a performance that brings us “The Hero.”
Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an out of work actor who is about to discover his mortality. Given medical news that requires almost immediate action, Lee isn’t sure what he wants to do.
Sitting with fellow out of work actor Jeremy (Nick Offerman), Lee has an opportunity to share the news with someone. Instead he tells Jeremy that he is getting ready to make another movie. He also meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a younger free spirited woman who happens to be a stand up comic. They take a liking to one another but Lee is distracted dealing with life.
Visiting his ex-wife Valarie (Katharine Ross), he tries to tell her as well but ends up asking about their daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) who seems to be avoiding him. Lee tries to invite Lucy to be his date to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award but receives a cold response. So he takes Charlotte who introduces Lee to a night of induced fun.
Charlotte invites Lee to see her stand up comedy stylings. He is devastated by what he hears and a tail spin ensues as Lee being to feel every moment of his life on his shoulders. You can run or swim in any kind of bottle through life and Lee learns that the hard way.
To his surprise there is a great potential for forgiveness, friendship, love and a chance to make his life a good one.
It is never too late to see the love!
Elliott as Lee is everything audiences have come to love about this actor and more. His magnificent slow cowboy drawl and full on mustache has always been recognizable. From his debut in the 1969 “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “The Sacketts” in 1979 his cowboy persona wins. His side-eye and mischievous grin has become iconic and even more so in the 1989 film “Road House.”
Elliott was quoted as saying, “I think I might have been a more interesting actor, had more of a career earlier on, if I had more formal preparation.” Not taking away how you feel there Sam, but audiences continue to be thrilled by past performances and are going to be stunned with “The Hero.”
Prepon as Charlotte is an interesting woman who sees past Lee’s age. To her there is a mystery too be unraveled about Lee but at the same time embraces her free spirit. That being said, he ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude is also a bit of a façade.
Offerman as Jeremy is the relaxingly baked comic relief yet a gentle spirit for Lee. Enjoying Lee’s company since he was a young actor seems to be enough for him. Their scenes together are both funny and touching.
Ritter as Lucy has a years worth of bones to pick with her father and she gets her chance. The problem is, as in life, wanting to call someone out on their flaws doesn’t always feel as good as you think it will and Lucy learns that. Ross as Valarie is still stunning and I personally was thrilled to see her back on the screen across her husband.
Other cast include Doug Cox as the Doctor, Max Gail as Gary Babcock, Jackie Joyner as Betsy, Patrika Darbo as Diane and Frank Collison as the Man in Dreams.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “The Hero” five tubs of popcorn out of five. Elliott gives a powerful, intense, funny, charming and heartfelt performance without special effects, cgi or sappy music pulling the audience into the story. Instead, we go willingly into Lee’s life because the journey is one we all have faced.
Owning up to past mistakes, Elliott gives the character every bit of the complexities we understand and care about. We also get treated to knowing that no matter what age, we all can still do crazy stuff and be surprised by life.
The one moving piece of “The Hero” is that redemption maybe painful but it is a fleeting pain in comparison to the compassion and love that can follow. “The Hero” is beautifully filmed, stunningly cast and had the screening audience thrilled to have experienced every moment.
“The Hero” was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and nominated Best American Independent Feature Film by the Cleveland International Film Festival for Brett Haley. The film won Honors for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking for actor Sam Elliott at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Take a moment to experience a film that will bring out every human emotion we share in this journey through life.
In the end — this is where the past and his mortality collide!