Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Imaginary Heroes

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for substance abuse, sexual content, language and some violence

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Comedy
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
Featuring: Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue
Director: Dan Harris, Daniel Harris
Producer: Moshe Diamant, Illana Diamant, Art Linson, Gina Resnick, Denise Shaw, Frank Hubner
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures Classics

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Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
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How can I deal with temptations? Answer

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People are never who they seem to be.

The movie “Imaginary Heroes” succeeds in presenting the idea that people’s heroes can be imaginary. It also succeeds in presenting a plot that is imaginary. Furthermore, any subtlety in the movie is also imaginary. And more than anything else, the point of the whole story seems quite imaginary. It does hold a couple enjoyable moments, but the overall drama seems quite imaginary, too.

This story of a seemingly typical American family, The Travis’s, begins with the tragic loss of one of their three children, Matt (Kip Pardue), a suspected hero and legend. The remaining members of the family—the mother, Sandy (Sigourney Weaver), the father, Ben (Jeff Daniels), the son, Tim (Emile Hirsch) and the sister, Penny (Michelle Williams), all struggle with the incident in their own way while we see them swim in a quagmire of their own habits and problems. Driven solely by the relationships of the characters, this story plods along until aspects of their relationships and various situations are finally uncovered. Perhaps these facts were withheld for dramatic effect, but it comes across as a very slow way to tell a story. While the situations are significant issues in themselves, it doesn’t seem that interesting or meaningful in the way they are presented here.

Some of the subject matter of this story involves several characters on various occasions involved with drugs and alcohol. Since the tragic incident, Ben drinks a lot and is often shown passed out drunk. Sandy obtains some marijuana and smokes it by herself in her backyard. And both Tim and his neighbor friend, Kyle (Ryan Donowho), are shown partying and taking the drug “ecstasy.” As far as substances go, several characters—especially Sandy—are shown smoking cigarettes in many different scenes, but it doesn’t seem to add anything to their character. Often, these events come off as something fun or needed to help the characters cope with their problems. The effects of these choices are also shown without the result of any real consequences.

Apart from the substance abuse, there are a several moments where the Lord’s name is taken in vain. The use of the f-word appears a few times throughout as well. There is no nudity, but a couple of instances show people involved sexually. There is also talk of sex as well.

One enigmatic moment shows Sandy at the trailer of a boy, Jack Johnson (Luke Robertson), whom she suspects has been hurting her son. In her confrontation with Jack and his mother, she refers to herself as a “good Christian woman” and proceeds (with the help of the f bomb) to threaten their lives if they ever do anything to hurt her son again. It seems there is a strong point being made that these people are “white trash”, living in a trailer and, as Sandy implies, have no meaning in their lives. Besides some irony, the scene was overly stereotypical and ineffective.

One topic that this movie repeatedly deals with is that of suicide. It comes up on several occasions, but nothing beyond that is really explained. It is treated more as a tragic thing, with no meaning or explanation. However, it does seem that Tim finds a kind of heroism in it. For example, one guy he meets, Vern (Jay Paulson) talks about committing suicide, and Tim calls him his new hero. Besides that, Tim also seems to be a fan of Kurt Cobaine (former lead singer of the band Nirvana, who also committed suicide). Tim has a picture of him that he drew himself, which he keeps in his music journal. Throughout the whole movie, suicide is never given any reason or explanation, but only presented as something to make other people suffer.

Near the end, when Tim and Kyle are high on “Ecstasy”, they kiss, with an implication that they slept together. They blame the drug they took, and the next morning Kyle is embarrassed. At this point, it seemed there might be some homosexual point to the story, but nothing else is mentioned of it. Besides an awkward moment at school with Kyle and Tim, the only thing that results is Kyle standing up for Tim against a bully.

The story does build to a touching moment between Ben and Tim, but it was very short-lived. It was a little difficult seeing where the change came from for one of the characters, but it still managed to draw me in and give us something redemptive. The rest of the moments come across contrived, which seems like bad acting at times, but it could also be due to the script. There didn’t seem to be any subtlety or nuance to it, but only a heavy, lethargic mood. We may understand the difficulties the characters are facing, but the way a character is insulted, for example, was not very believable. Many other moments came across this way, too. For example, I was left bewildered about why the mother, Sandy, is so mad at the neighbor lady, when she is the one who is at fault.

Although the movie’s production quality was good, it seemed hollow most of the time. For whatever reason, this movie doesn’t seem to accomplish much. It was difficult for me to get into anything that was happening, and even more difficult to enjoy it. Instead, there is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and a presentation of characters that, for the most part, are not very interesting. For many reasons, there are plenty of other choices of movies to spend time watching.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Jesus would be so proud of the turn that Sigourney Weaver has taken in her life by accepting this role. This movie is a searing family drama which shows the destructive nature that sin can have on a family and its lasting impressions. Highly recommended for any Christians who may be doubting their faith or faith in their family… it will be sure to inspire and uplift. It may even lead some to the Lord, as I believe it must have led Ms. Weaver.
My Ratings: Excellent!/5
S. Meschter, age 26
Movie Critics
…first-time filmmaker Dan Harris misfires by attempting to do too much…
…piles too many small disasters on top of the initial tragedy…
Stephen Holden, New York Times
…story of suburban teenage angst… restrained black comedy… focus is less on family dynamics and more on suicide…
Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
…By the film’s end, there is such a …overload of bared secrets (rivaling whole seasons of TV soap operas), you might feel in need of a shovel to make your way out of the theatre…
David Noh, Film Journal International
…the journey, with all of its ups and downs and chaotic jumble, feels true and is full of humanity…
Glenn Whipp, L.A. Daily News