Promoting “The Hero” at Sundance

Laura was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to promote the upcoming film The Hero. The film centers on Sam Elliot portraying an aging, ill and washed up cowboy actor whom Laura’s character meets at a mutual friend’s (Nick Offerman) house. Kristen Ritter and Katherine Ross round out the cast.

Media buzz on the film includes a great review by The Hollywood Reporter:

In The Hero, unlike in most of his other projects, Elliott appears in nearly every frame as Lee Hayden, an over-the-hill Western film star whose cancer diagnosis prompts him to plan a comeback, reconnect with his estranged daughter and romance a younger woman. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it before, with tweaks and variations, in movies like The Verdict, Tender Mercies, The WrestlerCrazy Heart and many more.

Indeed, a sense of déjà vu clings to the film — from the succession of predictable narrative beats to some done-to-death visual motifs (the waves of the Pacific rolling in, for example) — threatening to choke the life out of it. But Haley (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Marc Basch) has a smooth hand, a light touch and, above all, the sense to stick close to Elliott. The leading man slips into the role as if it were a favorite pair of old sneakers, delivering a performance of such gentle melancholy and unforced charisma that spending 90 minutes with him is painless, and sometimes pleasant.

When we meet Lee, he’s living off residuals (and the occasional barbecue sauce ad voiceover), spending much of his time holed up in his secluded Malibu home with a stiff drink and a fat joint. Accelerating what seems like a slow slide into depression is the news that a tumor doctors have found on his pancreas is malignant. But rather than schedule a potentially life-prolonging procedure, Lee goes to decompress with dealer/friend/former-co-star Jeremy (Nick Offerman).

That’s how Lee first encounters Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a 35-ish stand-up comic who comes to Jeremy’s for the drugs and stays for the banter with the aging, mustachioed stud on the couch (“I’ve got a thing for old guys,” she later admits). As she’s proven on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, Prepon is a first-rate flirt, her cat-that-ate-the-canary grin, husky voice and twinkling gaze weapons in a formidable arsenal of seduction. But something about Lee — his seen-it-all stoicism, his sadness — stirs Charlotte, and the push-pull affair that ensues between them (in a nice reversal, she has to woo him, overcoming his hang-ups about their age difference) is, surprisingly, the film’s freshest element.

Read the full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

Another great review was offered up from The Nerdist:

Picture Sam Elliott playing a grizzled old actor, iconic for a genre left largely behind by Hollywood, trying to understand his neglected relationships after learning which disease is going to kill him. Whatever perfection you’re imagining, Elliott somehow surpasses it.

Following in the thematic footsteps of I’ll See You In My Dreams, co-writer/director Brett Haley’s The Hero is a marriage of incomparable veteran talent and a character worthy of it. Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a 72-year-old acting icon whose heyday was 40 years ago. Now doing voice-over work for BBQ sauce commercials, he’s bummed that movie studios never call his agent, but seems just as content to bum around his weed dealer/friend Jeremy’s (Nick Offerman) house watching Buster Keaton flicks. He’s divorced, effectively estranged from his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), and staring down the barrel of a lifetime achievement award from a small cowboy movie fan club.

Oh, and pancreatic cancer’s 5% survival rate.

When he meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon) through Jeremy, she becomes a much-needed companion and sounding board for understanding the bulk of his life and a death that’s suddenly around the corner. As you can probably guess, this is a contemplative, conversational film–like a Richard Linklater movie with a slight tilt toward fantasy. At night, when he can sleep, Lee dreams that he’s starring in a movie in the shadow of a man hanged from a tree. Yet its surreal imagery isn’t full-on psychedelia, even (thankfully) when Lee does Molly or eats mushrooms. Like a cowboy on a tennis court, these visuals are meant to push reality just an inch to the left. To jostle symbols out of their familiar context.

Read the full review at The Nerdist.

More mentions appeared in The Daily Mail and International Business Times. The best news was the acquisition of the film by distribution company The Orchard. Check out the notes on this in Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter.


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