Saturday, April 13, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Imaginary Heroes

At one point in her commentary--an intelligent bit of commentary, by the way--on the DVD of 24 year old first time director Dan Harris's 2004 Imaginary Heroes, actor Sigourney Weaver, who plays mother Sandy in this independentish film, says that some people have compared Imaginary Heroes with another film in which Weaver played a restless suburban mother, Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997).

The comparison between Imaginary Heroes and The Ice Storm, as Weaver notes, is an apt one but there is a difference between the two films, again as Weaver notes, a difference that says so much about even small close to everyday life films coming out of Hollywood today, Imaginary Heroes, as Weaver says, was aimed at Harris's generation, the just out of high school or still in high school generation. Ice Storm, on the other had, was focused more on the adults in the film and was aimed more at an adult audience.

Imaginary Heroes centres on the Travis family of Mom Sandy (Weaver), Dad Ben (Jeff Daniels), sister Penny (Michelle Williams), and, the protagonist and narrator of the film, the about to graduate from high school son and brother Tim (Emile Hirsch). And then there is older brother Matt (Kip Pardue), Ben's favourite and who Ben is grooming for the Olympics but who, as Tim tells us at the beginning of the film, hates swimming. Imaginary Heroes begins with older brother Matt's suicide, a suicide that will, in the course of the film, let loose a host of family and personal secrets which the family, in typical Hollywood manner, finally manages to find the strength to fight their way through.

While Imaginary Heroes may be somewhat like The Ice Storm, a film which superbly captures its time and place along with the dysfunction of two families, it suffers, in my opinion, by the comparison. The Ice Storm is brilliant, Imaginary Heroes, a film about the heroes and villains we create but who inevitably come crashing down because they can never match the heroes and villains of our imagination, is no The Ice Storm. That said, this small serious film certainly didn't deserve the treatment it got from Sony Pictures Classics, who distributed the picture: release in only twenty-four cinemas in the US. It was nice to see a film about something approximating everyday life rather than the kiddie corn that normally comes rolling out of Hollywood these days. Imaginary Heroes deserves a wider audience for this reason alone. And it does have some genuinely funny and wicked humour in it not to mention some superb acting by Weaver and Daniels. Check it out. Sadly Harris has never done anything this serious and this interesting since. And that tells us much about making it in contemporary Hollywood.

Imaginary Heroes, 2004, written and directed by Dan Harris, 2:35:1

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