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The Hero - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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The Hero
SIFF's capsule summary: "Sam Elliott re-teams with director Brett Haley (I'll See You in My Dreams) in a tailor-made showcase role as an aging Western actor and 'sad old pothead' whose cancer diagnosis leads him to re-examine his past, contemplate his legacy, and maybe make a few new friends." (US, 2017, 93 minutes)
SIFF link: The Hero

Aging Western movie star Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) hasn't been in a movie he's proud of since he was in The Hero, and he pays the bills by doing commercials. Through his drug dealer best friend Jeremy (Nick Offerman) – who he still buys his weed from, even though he could go to a legal dispensary – he meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who has a thing for old guys. Lee is offered a lifetime achievement award by a Western movie fan club, and on a whim invites Charlotte because his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) is mad at him. But when a medical issue rouses Lee from his sleepwalking attitude, he makes a serious effort to make amends with Lucy and his ex-wife Valarie (Katharine Ross, Elliott's real-life wife).

6 Almost Good There's a lot of good stuff in this film, but the script (by Marc Basch and director Brett Haley) is pretty thin. It felt like a story that's too long to be a short film, but not long enough to be a feature, but stretched to feature length anyway. I rate it fair. The directing is good.

The real highlight of this film is the acting. Elliott is excellent, in spite of having to carry along a story that runs in slow motion. His voice is almost a co-star. Prepon is good, but feels more like a thirty-something version of her character in That 70s Show who didn't mature all that much. She has the black hair of her Orange Is the New Black role, but not much of the depth and none of the malice. Offerman is very good in a lightweight role. Ritter and Ross don't get a lot of screen time, but they get plenty to work with; they're both excellent.

It's not often that a film can be better than its script, but in this case the acting elevates the material. I still only rate it almost good, but the overall film is better than the script.

Languages: English.

Rating: This film has a US rating of "R", for "drug use, language, and some sexual content".

Screening: 12 noon, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, I'd guess little over 100, about 400 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: spinach wrap sandwiches from home.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteers "R" and "J" provide announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 12 films (all features), 12 time slots, one party. ("J": 6 films, one party.)

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