Still from 'The Hero'

SXSW Film 2017: Day Five

Mar 15, 2017 By Stephen Mayne
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I was definitely being optimistic when I thought a little caffeine alone could power me through whatever bug it is I’ve picked up. It wasn’t until nearly six I managed to get out the apartment today, arriving too late to make it to a Michael Cera film. It worked out well though, as I headed south of the river for The Hero.

First though, I have to say the Alamo Drafthouse people know what they’re doing, and the food ordering system actually worked without disturbing anyone. If I’d have known comfy seats and great views awaited me, I’d have stopped wasting so much time in the Paramount.

Enough of the incidentals and onto the film. It deserves talking about. The Hero casts the always-excellent Sam Elliott as a faded western star out of work, out of touch with his family, and staring at his own demise. Elliott is simply brilliant, oozing sadness and confusion as he tries to make sense of a career that was largely based around one film four decades ago.

Director/co-writer (with Marc Basch) Brett Haley could have made a good western if he’d wanted, shooting several dream sequences so vividly I’d happily watch them as a standalone movie. I can live with settling for the life of the western star instead. Surrounding Elliott are a number of roles including Nick Offerman’s friend and drug dealer, Krysten Ritter’s justifiably unhappy daughter, and a surprising new relationship with Laura Prepon’s much younger stand-up comedian.

It’s also very funny in places, particularly the sight of Elliott’s actor hijacking his own speech at a lifetime achievement award show because he’s high on fairy dust. It’s deeper than just that – he’s doing the hijacking because the whole concept of a lifetime award suggests to him his life might be in the past – and dreamier too. At one point, Elliott describes movies as someone else’s dream. This is the kind that leaves you contemplative, sad, and ultimately, profoundly moved.

Aside from the fact I’d been left battered and a little broken by The Hero, I could only keep my illness down for a few hours. I did consider a midnight screening, but in all likelihood, I’d only have slept through it. So instead I returned home to speed the recovery. The music portion of SXSW is starting now, and that will be taking up some of my time, but there’s always space for more films.


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