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With: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter, Katharine Ross, Ali Wong, Cameron Esposito, Patrika Darbo
Written by: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Directed by: Brett Haley
MPAA Rating: R for drug use, language and some sexual content
Running Time: 93
Date: 06/09/2017

The Hero (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As with his wonderful I'll See You in My Dreams, director Brett Haley manages to take an underused subject, i.e. a character over seventy, and make a movie that's deeply soulful and sweetly easygoing.

In The Hero, Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) was once a Western movie star, known for his iconic role in a movie called The Hero, but now doing radio ads for barbecue sauce. He goes to buy pot from his old friend Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and while there meets the pretty, younger Charlotte (Laura Prepon).

They strike up a tentative relationship, but then a routine checkup reveals that Lee has cancer. He begins trying to pick up the pieces of his life, specifically attempting to reconcile with his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). But an appearance at an awards banquet supercharges Lee's career again, and he finds himself pulled in several directions at once, struggling to find what's most important.

Normally a movie like this would be a dire, hand-wringing affair, full of tears and anguish and button-pushing, but The Hero is remarkably laid-back, happily open to looseness and exploration. It's warm and funny, and very much in tune with all its characters, young and old, male and female.

The central relationship between an older man and a younger woman could have been troublesome, but the movie treats it just right, with a measure of shyness, a measure of questioning, and a measure of distancing; each character feels around, rather than assuming a solution.

Likewise, the father-daughter relationship seems to respect each character's point of view. (No one's feelings are presented as hysterical or unreasonable.) At the same time, nothing feels forced or overly dramatized; it's a breezy, effortless movie, and a good choice for moviegoers anywhere from 17 to 97.

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