Imaginary Heroes (Sous-titres français)
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In this "mixture of poignant drama and quirky humor...delivered by a superb cast" (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune), the Travis family experiences a stunning tragedy which begins to unravel them. Teenaged son Tim (Emile Hirsch, The Girl Next Door) views his life as a bad dream. His father, Ben (Jeff Daniels - Terms of Endearment, The Hours), tunes out and treats his wife and children like strangers. His mother, Sandy (Oscar(r)-nominee Sigourney Weaver, 1986, Best Actress, Alien) sharpens her tongue with sarcasm and dulls her senses with pot while struggling hard to conceal a secret that threatens to ruin them all. With elements of pathos, salty humor and self-discovery, the Travises learn to accept one another as family - warts and all.
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When swimmer Matt Travis (Kip Pardue, who has little screen time but still manages to make an impact) shoots himself, the entire Travis family begins to disintegrate into its parts - emotionally detached office dad (Jeff Daniels), bored housewife experimenting with pot, the remaining son (around whom the story is centered), hiding some secrets about the late brother - who in his death is now exalted within the family, even so much that Jeff Daniels's character insists they set out a plate of dinner for him every night - and the independent college daughter (Michelle Williams). Sigourney Weaver's Sandy is battled against next-door-neighbor housewife Marge in a sixteen-year-old grudge that is important to the plot, though Marge's delinquent drug-running son Kyle bridges the enmity as the best friend of Sandy's son Tim.
The story mostly follows Tim's exploits as he tries new things to deal with his brother's death, to ignore the things his brother did to him, through casual drugs, a pushy girlfriend, and a brief, ecstasy-induced one night stand with best friend Kyle. When Sandy drops a bomb of a revelation on his head towards the end of the movie, Tim finally manages to confront the deep-seated resentment he feels for his dad and his brother, which brings the movie to a satisfying conclusion after a lot of tension and confusion.
It's worth a watch, at least once - and it throws a monkey wrench in the cogs of the suburban profile a few times, giving the viewer a few interesting surprises to digest - but it isn't going on my favorites list, it just isn't original enough.
Sigourney Weaver flat-out shines throughout the entire picture as does the rest of the terrific cast including Jeff Daniels, Emile Hirsch and Michelle Williams.
The story? True. There's nothing false about it. Don't mistake this for some horrific Hollywood mess where the characters are wooden, the plot is unrealistic and the acting is unconvincing. No, this is the real deal.
There is a website that I like to check out sometimes called Rotten Tomatoes. It's a little place where all the critics like to gather and tear apart movies as they release. They were alot less than kind with Imaginary Heroes. A movie has to be 60% or higher to recieve a fresh label. Heroes recieved a 34%, earning a rotten label. I was in shock. I even read some of the reasons the critics gave. One read "just too damn depressing." Here's my response: SHOVE IT. This person must obviously loves all the hollywood trash that takes up 99% of the room on the shelves at the local Hollywood or Blockbuster video. All the trash there today that paints pictures of perfect families, sending out messages that say things will always work out perfectly and everyone always goes home happy in the end. Life is not like that and that is what Imaginary Heroes is trying to say. Don't get me wrong, though. You can watch those other films for pleasure and enjoyment, but don't try and actually believe them. I really don't like critics. Being a critic shouldn't be a job, it should be a hobby.
Oh yeah, here's a note to all those who are looking for a good film, but can't find any. I began to realize this after I kept watching more and more films over the years (by the way, I'm 18):
MOVIES THAT ARE NOT WIDE-RELEASE FILMS, AND I REPEAT, MOVIES THAT ARE NOT WIDE-RELEASE FILMS USUALLY ARE THE MUCH BETTER FILMS. Movies like Imaginary Heroes and other unheard of or non wide-release films deserve alot more credit than they end up getting.
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.
It's amazing the contrasting reactions this movie has illicited. Some people dislike it's slow pace and some seem bothered that it's theme, the disintegrating American family, has been portrayed before by better known and more glamorous films. That's no surprise. All of those points are valid to a degree, but they do not take into account the main audience for this movie: actors or lovers of acting.
Yes, the pacing is rather slow, yet there are movies that are made where this is intentional. The end result is that you have no fanfare, no quick plot progressions. You are just left with the mundane feelings of everyday life. And really, for most people, isn't that what life is?
Yes it's true, suicide is a common theme, and the movie gives away the main plot element right in the beginning, so no spoiler there. Yet how do people deal with losing a brother, a son, a friend? Each character's reaction is a testament to great writing and great acting as well. And it takes great directing to bring those two things together.
This movie is hard to watch because it's supposed to be. While it's not a great "film-watching" experience, it is an excellent study of various acting techniques. Therefore, students of acting or actors will find a lot to admire here.
Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams and Emile Hirsh all show tremendous range here, and each does it using very distinct and different techniques. We have method acting, sense memory, character acting and some plain old amazing acting. Some of those differences are subtle but if you watch this a few times the effect is impressive.
Yes, the slow pacing and lack of groundbreaking themes perhaps make this a 3 star movie at best, yet the incredible performances and well written material deserve a 4 star rating.
Don't watch this movie with any other movie in mind. Let this movie stand on it's own. If you are able to reflect and enjoy studying how actors work, then this movie is for you. If you're looking for a fun Friday night movie, you may want to check out something else.