Sundance 2017 Review: The Hero – Sam Elliott IS The Hero

Sundance 2017 Review: The Hero – Sam Elliott IS The Hero

The Hero is a great vehicle for Sam Elliott. He fully commits to the performance, but the script is very contrived drama.

Lee (Elliott) is an iconic western star who’s now doing a voiceover for barbecue sauce commercials. A western society gives him an award, and his drug-fueled acceptance speech gets him some viral notoriety. Yet this can’t repair his relationship with his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). Lee is also dying of stomach cancer, debating whether even to have an invasive procedure to eek out a few more years,

So you’ve got dying of cancer, reflecting on life’s mistakes, estranged children and Lee also begins dating a much younger woman (Laura Prepon). 

There are plenty of scenes in The Hero for Elliott to show his goods. They certainly play on his iconic voice, as the real Sam Elliott has had quite a career in voiceover. He gets to cry and then lash out screaming, and he’s powerful, but the scenes in question are an embarrassing audition and an invasive paparazzi, neither of which seem to affect his life after.

Creating the fake Hollywood Lee lives in also makes it hard to connect. You can do fake Hollywood successfully. It’s Entourage‘s biggest strong suit. I would say Last Action Hero made an effective fake Hollywood, even if it fumbled other aspects. The movie Lee starred in doesn’t even look like a TNT western. The fake YA space movie he’s auditioning for isn’t even as convincing as Moonquake Lake. The western society doesn’t seem like any of the real preservation societies that may have such an awards event. Even the barbecue sauce commercial doesn’t seem like a real spot that would air.

I suppose we can give them the benefit of the doubt and transpose the real Sam Elliott’s career onto Lee, but they could have created a believable Western hero Elliott could embody. On a performance level, this could have been an Oscar nomination for Elliott, but I don’t see the film as a whole sticking with voters even if it’s released late in the year.

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