Imaginary Heroes

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams
Director: Dan Harris

Suicidal brothers, neurotic sisters, drug-wielding mothers, psychotic fathers. Ah yes, the household tale of the ‘Familia Dysfunctional’ – the dysfunctional folks that grace our screens in elaborate dramas – who (thankfully) lead us to believe that our own lives are far more desirable than theirs. The general rule for films featuring these on-screen kin is to hone in on both their separate and shared plights, showing that without co-operation, communication and commitment, they might as well throw in the towel and call it a day.

Imaginary Heroes shows us the what’s-wrong-with-the-bunch-next-door scenario by portraying the Travis family’s woes and sufferings mainly through the eyes of son Tim (Emile Hirsch) and mother Sandy (Sigourney Weaver). Basked in a magical AMERICAN BEAUTY-ish feel that intercepts tragedy with humour, it takes us on the spin of a modern family’s life that is at times realistic and at times too far-fetched to be possible in real life. The latter, however, is in some cases so deficiently executed that occasionally the film is dragged into soap opera territory because of it. (Not a good thing!)

We see this family go through spring, summer, autumn, yawn, winter, yawn…and back to spring. Maybe a year’s worth of the Travis’s is too long? What starts out as a breath of fresh air, turns into a whiff of stale space that drags on as a wintry afterthought. I could have done without some twists in the last bit. And a few simple gaping holes left me hanging with unanswered queries, in a bad way. AMERICAN BEAUTY this is certainly not.

So what to do? Only catch half of the year and walk out before the darling buds of spring start sprouting again? Well, things needn’t be that drastic. There are aspects here that can make your movie experience worthwhile if your life depends on it – you can still appreciate the good parts of the film that manage to echo into even the worst pieces: the chemistry between actors is sufficient to present a good family unit; the well-chosen music is truly fantastic; and the scriptwriter did a great job. Too bad that the writer and director are one and the same person, because somewhere in bringing that script to life, something got lost. It must have been winter.

Director Dan Harris (who brought us, amongst others, the X2: X-MEN UNITED script) seems over zealous in his debut feature; his ultimate fault boils down to the film lacking a consistently coherent approach to this tired and overdone theme. And it feels too prolonged. Enough is enough. There is only so much whinging we can take before deciding to, well, throw in the popcorn and call it a day…

3 out of 6 stars