Rated: R for strong sexual content, drug use, and graphic language.
Genre: Drama Comedy
Directed By: Daniel Harris
Running Time: 1:52
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 1/23/06
DVD Features:
Audio Commentary - 1. Dan Harris - Director, Emile Hirsch - Star
2. Sigourney Weaver - Star
Deleted Scenes - (8)
Trailers - 1. Sony Pictures Previews


Sure, we've seen this film a thousand times already. Take "Ordinary People" and mix it with "Ice Storm" and you'll basically have "Imaginary Heroes", but what I enjoyed most about this was the ability of its cast to rise above the over done plot, and make it their own. "Imaginary Heroes" is a title immensely appropriate for the story which dares to examine life, and whom we perceive as heroes in our life. As a character proclaims "They say two things happen when we meet our heroes. Either they're assholes, or they're just like us. Either way, we lose." With often malaise and sublime nuance, "Imaginary Heroes" examines yet another middle class suburban family dealing with the suicide of their oldest son, a golden boy worshipped by his father.

Black sheep Tim awakes one morning and discovers his brother has taken his own life, and this tragic event forces everyone in the house to examine their own lives. With the death, it helps them re-examine their surroundings to discover that their lives aren't filled with the American dream, but the complacency of misery. Jeff Daniels gives a very effective performance as Ben a passive aggressive, overbearing prick of a father who openly and proudly favors his oldest son over Tim. His cold-hearted alienation from his other children due to the death of his oldest really do present reminiscent shades of Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People". He begins focusing his energy on his misfit son not because he loves him, but because he just doesn't want to have to lose another one.

He only realizes his mistakes by his ill-parenting and not by conscious effort, while Sigourney Weaver steals the movie from everyone else with an absolutely excellent performance as the often times miserable house wife who can do nothing to keep her husband from inflicting his misery on his other children except be there for them, and attempt to seek out her own journey to awakening and discovering other dimensions of her closed in house life. "Imaginary Heroes" also relishes in exploring brutal irony and utterly awkward situations such as Sandy attempting to buy marijuana from a store--with a security camera staring down at her.

And in one of the funnier scenes, Daniels' character Ben offers money for his son to see a Nirvana concert. The irony of that scene being that Cobain died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. When you know how the film starts, it's a very funny albeit awkward moment. Luckily director Harris never milks it. And with such films of this framework there are bound to be some plot twists, and as the film unfolds, boy are there ever an array of plot twists. In the long run "Imaginary Heroes" isn't original, but it sure is well acted, and well told.

"Imaginary Heroes" prides itself in being one of the most derivative movies I've seen in years. If you've seen "Ice Storm", "American Beauty", or "Ordinary People", well then you've seen this film already. It anxiously and desperately seeks to become a new age "Ordinary People" with the same basic characters coming together for the story except the Judd Hirsch therapist. I mean, how many of these seedy underbelly of the suburbs movies can we have? Put upon mother who can't let go of grudges? check, asshole passive aggressive father? Check. Brooding love interest? Check, forgotten sibling who prefers not to be associated with the family ala "Ice Storm'? Check. Pariah black sheep child examining things in their own corner? Check.

And of course there's the always reliable fail safe, the slow motion montage set to whimsical piano music in the climax. If you're going to be derivative, at least be original about it. Meanwhile, "Imaginary Heroes" sure does stretch for drama with a story that feels much too routine to be taken seriously. It's just one bad event after the other that basically meanders from the actual story and journey of the main characters as often as possible and loses any effect from the actual point. And Emile Hirsch pulls in yet another mediocre performance as Tim, the main character without a lick of fascination. I found myself interested a lot more in the supporting characters than the actual main character, in the long run.

While it may be derivative, cliché, unoriginal and headlined by an actor who pulls in another mediocre performance, "Imaginary Heroes" is saved with an effective well told story, great plot twists, and rousing performances by Williams, Daniels, and particularly Weaver who steals the show.



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