"Script as Metaphor"
A Review of "The Hero" by Nathan H. Box
Director: Brett Haley, Writer: Brett Haley, Marc Basch, Starring: Sam Elliot, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter
Rating: 5 Stars, SHOWTIME!
For my 16th film of the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival, I decided to see something with some Oscar potential. "The Hero" is about an ailing movie star, played brilliantly by Sam Elliot, who is trying to come to terms with his past, mortality, and legacy. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the role Sam Elliot was born to play and one for which he deserves proper recognition.
One of the major themes throughout this movie focuses on aging in Hollywood. Now, of course, the aging of women in Hollywood is well documented and there are plenty of roles left for aging men to pursue. For now, I will leave that topic in more capable hands than my own. Instead, I would like to focus on this film.
Mr. Elliot plays Lee Hayden, an actor who is fondly remembered for his role in a western from decades past. As the curtain begins to fall on his career, he is honored with a lifetime achievement award; which feels like a nail in the coffin. With a younger woman on his arm, who ends up being a love interest, he attends the event and gives a heartwarming acceptance speech that catapults him back into the spotlight.
Just as his relevance begins to rise again, Lee discovers he has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. With this news, he proceeds acting as if he has been given a death sentence. He makes attempts to right things with his ex-wife, estranged daughter and begins pushing his new love interest away. For me, these exchanges were some of the most powerful in the entire movie. They reminded me what death can do to people and how they can put life into perspective. What people do with the end really helps us know them.
This isn't the first movie to tackle the prospect of death nor will it be the last. The subject of our end has to be one of the most pondered in the universe. What made this film different was its approach. It seemed real and authentic as if it could happen to any of us. The script was genuine and the actions of Sam Elliot reminded me of my father. As I watch him age, I cannot help but ponder my own mortality. This is where life gets real and a film becomes something more. The great movies of my life were a catalyst for some bigger questions. They served as metaphors for something in which I find answers. With the closing of this film, we are offered an admission and closure. We are given a glimpse of the end and, perhaps, a blueprint on how to handle it.