Imaginary Heroes unfolds like a grocery list of Oscar-baiting dramatics. Let's see, there's a suicide, a closeted gay teenager, an extramarital affair, an emotionally abusive father and a mother with a disease (oh, yeah, throw in some physical abuse at school and a subplot about the gay teenager's paternity). These ploys all get trotted out like the writer had a plane to catch and none of the twists or character revelations means a damn. This is one of the worst "respectable-looking" movies I've ever seen. Rather than illuminating the human condition, it actually degrades it, not because it's offensive or immoral (this movie is as safe and mediocre as an episode of Seventh Heaven), but because everything in it is calculated and uninspired. Young writer/director Dan Harris steals from sources like Ordinary People and American Beauty — he wants to do suburban middleclass angst but what he comes up with is simply paint by numbers — and gets the numbers wrong. Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels play the dysfunctional parents and they have such a lack of dramatic chemistry that they might as well be in separate movies. Neither of them have ever been so unconvincing, and Daniels delivers some of the worst "on the nose" dialogue you'll ever hear ("You've gotta talk to me! I can't do this by myself!"). But much of the blame has to go to Emile Hirsh as the son. It's a sulky, one-note performance and Hirsch surprisingly fails to generate any empathy for a character who suffers so completely. He does all of his acting with a glowering gaze and a recalcitrant lock of hair over his eyes. This is the kind of movie that's killing the American independent movie scene. It'll snow a few people with its mournful cello music and its paper-thin veneer of melodrama masquerading as human psychology, but most will see it for the void that it truly is. (Mongrel Media)