Imaginary Heroes (2005)

3Starring: Emile Hirsch, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue, Deirdre O’Connell, Ryan Donowho, Suzanne Santo, Ari Graynor

Directed by: Dan Harris

R. 112 mins

An overly-ambitious, melodramatic directorial debut, Imaginary Heroes stumbles, but stays the course thanks to Weaver and Hirsch’s memorable performances. The story functions much like any other tale of dysfunctional family – but with a few more eccentricities and emotional outbursts.

Ben and Sandy Travis (Jeff Daniels and Sigourney Weaver) are a couple whose family begins to crumble when their eldest son, star college athlete Matt (Kip Pardue) commits suicide. Sandy’s quite the cynic and expresses herself more outwardly than her husband. In an attempt to bond with her surviving teenaged son, Tim (Emile Hirsch) they find the bonding goes a lot smoother is marijuana is introduced to the picture. Ben tries to reach out to Tim, but Tim can’t shake the feeling that he father never wanted him in the first place. Tim is also going through a rough patch with his girlfriend, which becomes even more complicated when he questions his sexuality after an encounter with his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. All the while Tim’s older sister is off living what appears to be a relatively happy life, away from the chaos of the rest of her family. Clearly, there’s a lot going on here and while each member of the Travis family grieves in their own way, the plot itself seems to stumble from one tone to the next – with comedic breaks and tragically dramatic moments, the lasting sentiment becomes muddled.

Directed by Dan Harris (best known for his work as a screenwriter on X-Men), the film has merit, to be sure, but so much of it lies with the actors that the overall product fails to convince as a complete picture. With a third act that consists of one dark secret revealed after another, Imaginary Heroes is a pastiche of more successful stories of dysfunctional families that wrongly assumes eccentricity will always translate into emotional depth.

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