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Imaginary Heroes  

Here's an entry in the dysfunctional family drama genre, replete with suicides, potential terminal illness, drug use and teen angst.   It’s got it all.   The picture tells the story of a troubled family in the wake of the suicide of the eldest son, a star swimmer.   It features Sigourney Weaver as the aging 60s-generation mother, Jeff Daniels as the dazed father, who alternates cruelty with awkward attempts to express love, and Emile Hirsch as the long-suffering younger teenage brother.

Writer and first time director Dan Harris actually has a fairly light touch and there’s a comic tone to much of the piece that belies the above description.   Still, this film covers well-tread ground.   It displays the hallmarks of a first-time effort as it mimics other films that must have moved Harris.   Moreover, although Harris has written a few features previously, as a director he doesn’t yet quite know how to translate to the screen ideas that must have looked really good on paper.  

On the plus side, there’s very nice work from Weaver as the mom and Hirsch as the son.   The teenager who obfuscates with nearly everyone else will always tell her the truth, will share what he really thinks, because she’s always done the same for him.  

Secrets revealed towards the end throw a different light on the eldest son’s suicide as well as Daniels’ character and reveal the reason that Daniels’ marriage to Weaver is so troubled.   However, for this sort of picture to work there must be the ring of emotional truth.   Not every scene misses, but too often scenes that are meant to be moving are too redolent of cliché.   This film is finally too flawed for a recommendation.  

- Mar 11, 2005  

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