Wednesday, July 5, 2017

“The Hero,” Sort Of

I wanted to like “The Hero” more than I did. I fully expected to.

My brother had recommended it; he has good taste in movies; and like me, for obvious reasons, he is sensitive to old-guy flicks in which the protagonist (not to say hero) has made mistakes along the way and has serious amends to make.

That’s the case with Sam Elliott as Lee Hayden, a Western movie actor who had only one starring role, that being forty years ago. Now on the far side of seventy, Lee finds out he is dying—very early in the film and therefore that’s a very minor spoiler.

What would you do if you found out you were dying and were divorced and alienated from your adult daughter, whom you never failed to disappoint? What Lee does and the sense he makes of his condition are just about the only moral point of this movie or watching it.

It turns out that Lee makes less firm sense of anything than do the three women surrounding him: his ex-wife played by Katharine Ross, nearly 50 years after “The Graduate”; the aforesaid disappointed daughter (Krysten Ritter); and an angel who drops from a cloud (the very-hard-to-look-away-from-for-these-sore-old-eyes Laura Prepon). Or is she a devil?

The final word in “The Hero” comes from a fourth woman, the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, of all people, and it’s a strong word, worth hearing. But it makes you wonder what, if anything, Lee said or thought along the way. Elliott’s bloodshot eyes and “iconic” mustache twitch feelingly. We get it: he feels. Surprising, then, that I didn’t feel more.

PS. I wrote recently and admiringly of “Manchester by the Sea” that it is a film about alcohol that doesn’t advertise the fact. I would say that “The Hero” should advertise the fact. It and its protagonist would make better sense of things like life and death if his alcohol and drug abuse were something he or the movie thought they should come to terms with.

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