The words "suburban family dramady" sends up red flares in my personal taste for movies. As a rule, movies dealing solely with a single, suburban household and the various ins and outs, overblown turmoil and melodrama that innevitably surrounds them, almost always fall short of their mark. Not only are most of these films boring, but in an attempt to build them up to something remotely interesting or meaningful, they're filled with melodramatic subplots involving the kinds of things that seem particularly devastating to suburban families - but hardly anyone else. In short, it's hard to find a good quality about most of the films in this vein. "Imaginary Heroes" however pulls a one-two punch to the gut, and manages to strike a certain chord, using realism as a strong right-jab, and strong character development as its follow-up left hook. The single most impressive element of this movie, however, that if for no other reason, makes it worth watching, is the chemistry between Emile Hirsch and Sigourney Weaver, who play mother and son in the film. For romance films, actors who play lovers occasionally stumble across a counterpart whom they have genuine chemistry, and more often than not, can forge a certain feeling for a person strong enough to carry the film. This is not a romance movie, nor do these actors play lovers. These two seemed to have genuinely stumbled upon a rare bond, at least as far as the screen can show. They genuinely connect in a mother/son sort of way, with an uncanny bond and affection for one another. Mother's close with their sons - suburban or otherwise - will validate that there is a certain element of unspoken connection between one another. This is genuinely displayed in this movie, not in a forced kind of way, nor an obvious ploy, but as a real element of the actor's relationship. Whether this holds true outside the film reel or not, it's enough to penetrate the viewer's initial skepticism and build a powerful involvement with the characters and their outcome.
Criticisms have been hurled at this movie. "Too many subplots." "Melodramatic elements abound." Etc... etc... I have to say, this is exactly the kind of thing that initially warned me away from this movie - not because I'd heard bad things about the film, but because I hold these criticisms true for every movie along similar plotlines. I have to say though, "Imaginary Heroes" works beautifully, achieiving a sense of art both in movement, and as an end product. The script is eloquent but real, which is in fact where most of the movie draws its realism from. Despite what "Entertainment Weekly" has to say, "Imaginary Heroes" is a movie strongly routed in realism, and powerfully so. The characters here are real portrayals of real people. Perhaps a tad to one extreme or the other at times, but they are never overdone nor overplayed. To those who are worried that too much is tackled in this film - let's look at it objectively. I won't argue with people who say a lot happens, because it sure does. It's an onslaught of tension and tragedy, one after the other, but honestly, in the wake of a serious tragedy in any family, in any walk of life, everything that may have been loose at the seams, begins to fall apart. Bad things often spawn from bad things, because when people fail to cope, they turn to destruction, of self or otherwise, and cause increasing turmoil. This is beautifully and truthfully exemplified in this film, and manifested superbly in the actors portrayal of their respective characters. The movie strikes close to home, no matter where you're from, and uses powerful character development and inter-character connections, put to the test and built stronger to hit home with the viewer. An overlooked film, lost in the gray area between art-film reviewers (looking for something more extreme or artsy,) and the mainstream critics (looking for something glossier or more flambuoyant,) "Imaginary Heroes," it's eloquent characters and poignant story seems doomed not to be truly recognized, but lends it an unusual power: it makes it a rare gem, a diamond in the rough, and gives it an uncanny personal impact with the viewer, similar to the aftermath of an intimate one-on-one conversation.