Published Mar 01, 2005Is a cast with some sharp-tongued quips enough to save a clichéd and exhausted plot? Luckily first time director Harris (screenwriter for Bryan Singer's X2 and the upcoming Superman Returns) secured a wonderfully talented cast in what could easily be described as a hybrid remake of Ordinary People and American Beauty.
After the suicide of champion swimmer Matt Travis, his family struggles to cope with the tragic sudden change in their lives. Mother Sandy (played exceptionally by Sigourney Weaver) finds herself battling the mistakes of her past while trying to save her youngest son Tim (Emile Hirsch) from losing control of his future. Father Ben (Jeff Daniels) visibly suffers the most, falling into a deep depression for having lost his most prized possession: his favourite child. Their strained familial relationship doesn't revolve solely around the death, as secrets reveal later on in the film, leaving ample room for the characters to find redemption and forgiveness.
Writing the script as well as directing, Harris treads on many of the same themes that earned both Robert Redford and Sam Mendes Oscars for their films. That's not to say he's made a film that should be completely stripped of its value. The role constructed for Weaver is both sardonically comical and obliquely touching, establishing a protective and chummy relationship with her son that is mostly uncommon for the matriarch in the majority of like-minded films. Hirsch as well continues to show major growth as an actor, even though he visually appears to have gotten younger since The Girl Next Door.
Harris's examination of tormented upper-middle class suburbia delivers plenty of touching and witty moments that help add flair to this quickly peeling onion that loses a number of layers in less than two hours. And that may be its biggest problem: Imaginary Heroes contains almost too much angst desperate to come out in the end. It doesn't pace itself, constantly entering more problems and unlocking secrets to keep the viewer engrossed. Minus these hiccups though, Harris has done a nice job in his debut that should not be overlooked for its familiarity and eagerness to please. (Mongrel Media)