Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review: ‘Hero’

Saturday, July 29, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“The Hero” is a heroic movie about Hollywood, with an Oscar nominee-bound performance by the inestimable Sam Elliott, a wonderful performance by Laura Prepon (a deserved supporting actress Oscar nominee) and a solid turn by the always interesting Nick Offerman.

Elliott plays Lee Hayden, whose claim to fame was starring in a western movie, “The Hero,” for which he’s being presented the annual Western Icon Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Appreciation and Preservation League, a fictitious organization seemingly based on the Western Heritage Society, which runs the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and gives out Western Heritage Awards.

Hayden is introduced to Charlotte Dylan (Prepon) by his Malibu Mountains neighbor Jeremy (Nick Offerman). Charlotte accompanies Hayden to the awards dinner, where he gives an acceptance speech that goes viral, giving his moribund career a needed boost.

Hayden, who has pancreatic cancer, shares his medical diagnosis with Charlotte, but not with his ex-wife, Valarie (Elliott’s real-life wife, Katharine Ross) or daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter).

Elliott, (TV’s “The Ranch,” 2016-17; “We Were Soldiers,” 2002; “Tombstone,” 1993) is probably best-known for his deep voice that has embellished numerous commercials, his laconic good looks, shock of gray hair, and that Fuller Brush Man mustache. In “The Hero,” Elliott digs deeper with a relaxed performance of angular body language, slight cock of his head, sly grin, and even a tear in his eye. He’s the kind of guy who pauses before he talks. Sam Elliott is simply a joy to behold.

Scenes are extraordinary, even magical, between Elliott and Prepon (“Orange Is The New Black,” 2013-17; TV’s “That ‘70s Show,” 1998-2006), who as Charlotte plays a much younger woman (Prepon is 37) to Hayden (Elliott will be 73 on Aug. 9). Charlotte owns up to being older than Hayden’s daughter, 34. Hayden is 71. Charlotte is assertive and simply tells Hayden she likes “old guys.”

Elliott is also terrific opposite Offerman (“The Little Hours,” 2017”; “The Founder,” 2016; TV’s “Parks And Recreation,” 2009-15), who plays it mostly serious in some genuine male-bonding scenes.

Director Brett Haley (“I’ll See You In My Dreams,” 2015; “The New Year,” 2010), who co-wrote the screenplay with Marc Basch (“I’ll See You In My Dreams”), mixes scenes from Hayden’s “The Hero” movie and Hayden’s dreams poetically with the realistic scenes, many of which linger over lovely views of California surf, beach and mountains, Los Angeles freeways and streets, and the faces of Elliott and Prepon in the cinematography by Haley’s previous collaborator, Director of Photography Rob Givens. The music by Keegan DeWitt (“I’ll See You In My Dreams”) augments the film’s atmospheric visuals.

Haley does a neat thing with “The Collected Works Of Edna St. Vincent Millay.” The gift of this book, a reference to a poem in it and the reading of a poem from it may bring renewed attention to the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry recipient.

As Prepon reads a poem to Elliott, a tear emerges from his eye.

You, too, may shed a tear during “The Hero.”

“The Hero,”MPAA rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for drug use, language and some sexual content; Genre: Drama, Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 33 min.; Distributed by The Orchard.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“The Hero” end credits state it was filmed entirely in California.

Box Office,July 21: “Dunkirk” won the battle of the weekend box office, opening at No. 1 with $50.5 million. 2. “Girls Trip,” $30.3 million, opening. 3. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fell one place, $22 million, $251.7 million, three weeks. 4. “War for the Planet of the Apes” fell two places, $20.4 million, $97.7 million, two weeks. 5. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” $17 million, opening.

6. “Despicable Me 3” fell three places, $12.7 million, $213.3 million, four weeks. 7. “Baby Driver” fell three places, $6 million, $84.2 million, four weeks. 8. “The Big Sick” fell three places, $5 million, $24.5 million, five weeks. 9. “Wonder Woman” fell two places, $4.6 million, $389 million, eight weeks. 10. “Wish Upon” fell three places, $2.4 million, $10.5 million, two weeks.

Unreel,July 28:

“The Emoji Movie,”PG: Tony Leondis directs the voice talents of James Corden, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge in the Animation Comedy Science-Fiction film about the adventures of those pictograph expressions we can’t text without.

“Atomic Blonde,”R: David Leitch directs Sofia Boutella, Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and Bill Skarsgård in the Action-Thriller about an undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes