Sam Elliott’s Hero within a Hero

 DATELINE:  Movies for the Older Audience

 Elliot & Ross The Hero    Katherine Ross & Sam Elliot

Film director Brett Haley seems to have cornered the senior citizen/golden-ager demographic with his latest film, The Hero.

It stars aged in wood cowboy actor Sam Elliot as an aged in wood cowboy star.

You couldn’t ask for a better representative of the old-fashioned saddletrap. Elliot relives part of his career with clips from a movie-within-a-movie called The Hero.

Whether he turns out to be the hero of his own life, the pages of Edna St. Vincent Millay may show. We are a sap when it comes to movies that use metaphors from Edna, as one of her bittersweet poems dominates the movie’s climax.

The film is partially based on Elliott and his career. Indeed, his wife Katharine Ross makes a rare film appearance as his ex-wife. She looks marvelous, but director Haley seems to give old stars a rebirth (see his earlier I’ll See You in My Dreams, with Barbara Bain, Mariette Hartley, and Elliott).

And, the plot revolves around his friendship with an old costar from a benighted TV series and his alienated daughter who is a bitter by-product of his past life.

Director Haley scores again with the geriatric performers. Max Gail shows up as the head of a Western fan movie group that honors the lead character with a ‘lifetime achievement’ award that no one has ever heard of. An aging fanbase hangs on for words of wisdom.

Silver-haired and silver-throated Sam Elliott’s Hero cowboy must face the grim diagnosis of his doctor and still maintain his star quality and prideful heroism. This is a masterful job of movie-making—but likely will be wasted on young viewers. It will resonate with generations of long ago.

 

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Dreams of Younger Days Won’t Cut It

DATELINE:  Aged in Wood

 sam & blythe

I’ll See You in My Dreams is an old song, but is not the one you expect to hear in the story.

Director Brett Haley presents us with a picture of growing old in Los Angeles, if you are rich and healthy. But, don’t be fooled. It’s no bed of roses for those with privilege and pleasant lives in the waiting room for the Grim Reaper. It’s still a dead end.

Blythe Danner plays an old lady named Carol, but she is way too beautiful, even in her 70s. She also seems to be playing Diane Keaton in terms of wardrobe. After the death of her husband, she took to a retirement community, high-end living to say the least, and for twenty years filled her life with bridge club, a dog, her daughter, and a pool boy, not necessarily in that order.

Still, much is missing in life. There is a motif of a rat running around her beautiful home that drives her outside periodically.

The 35-year-old pool boy may be half her age and in one of those millennial crisis, but he sees her powerful, past talent as a chanteuse. Indeed, Danner gives a wonderful rendition of “Cry Me a River” to prove the point.

Dropping by the film are old faces, once familiar TV staples, like Max Gail, Mary Kay Place, and Rhea Pearlman, which seems to increase audience depression.

The low-budget film will not win over the young set, but who needs to? This is a bittersweet story of whether geriatric romance is worth the tumble. It is done all too tastefully, as these are not desperate, grubby people

When distinguished and wry Sam Elliott shows up with plenty of money, we realize that old age is meant to be lived with wealth and health. Heaven forefend you lose those.

There is something of resignation in the message that Haley seems to present in this highly polished movie that was filmed in three weeks. When you have old professionals, you can fly through a script.

Well-done on all levels and sobering tale of love and loss.