Sam Elliott is kind of my hero but I’m not sure why this is the first film of his that I’ve seen.
Synopsis: A former movie star deals with his deteriorating health and lifetime of regrets while trying to mend the relationships with his ex-wife and daughter, and pursuing a new romantic interest. (Rovi)
Starring: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, and Krysten Ritter
Writers: Brett Haley and Marc Basch
Director: Brett Haley
Running Time: 96mins
There is no manlier man than Sam Elliott. Equipped with one of the best moustaches and greatest voices, he was perfectly cast here as an aging, over-the-hill actor named Lee Hayden. Hayden was a Western movie star with his most popular film also being “The Hero”. Of course a lot of time had passed since his heyday and now his career had stalled with him not getting any roles and being reduced to commercials and various voice work (although I would buy anything sold by that voice).
Now Hayden had to come to terms with where he was in his life and his legacy. He was known for The Hero so he would often have dreams of himself playing the role once again but over time, his real life began to slip in. In the meantime, new roles weren’t coming so he had to figure out what he wanted to do. Over the years, he managed to screw up his life as he was divorced from his longtime wife Valarie (Katharine Ross) and had an estranged daughter named Lucy (Ritter). Once he learned that he had cancer, this forced him to take a deep look within himself and try to repair his relationships before it was too late.
Some may find that the plot moves rather slowly as the majority of the plot was dialogue-driven since this story dealt with real people and real situations and this genuine nature just made it even more compelling to watch. Most of these conversations seemed to take place in front of the ocean for whatever reason but the stillness of it went along nicely. These types of redemption stories are nothing new, however, Hayden was such a relatable character that the emotion behind his arc helped to overcome this through his quest to find himself and having to tell his family that he was sick and dying. It wasn’t easy for him, he wanted to tell them although he just couldn’t.
This all changed once he met a woman named Charlotte (Prepon). They quickly hit it off and she gave him a new reason to live. There was just something about her that interested him. What was also interesting about their relationship was how the story played with their obvious age gap. Charlotte was barely older than Lucy but she was more of an old soul (no pun intended). They brought out the best of one another and they had great chemistry together.
The acting was the best part of the film and Elliott was at the forefront. The film would not have worked at all if it wasn’t for him. As mentioned, the storytelling was a little slow and perhaps unoriginal but Elliott’s presence alone made it very engaging to watch. His emotionally nuanced performance was captivating, showing this flawed man trying to find his purpose and establish his legacy. The supporting performances by Prepon, Ritter, Ross (who is actually Elliott’s real life wife), and Nick Offerman as Hayden’s pot dealer friend Jeremy were all good but this was Elliott’s film. This was all elevated by the script, creating a real story and fueling the performances.
Overall, this was a great, emotionally-engaging human drama elevated by a smart script and great performances especially by Sam Elliott in the lead role. This will probably not be the last we’ll hear from him.
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