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Imaginary Heroes - 2004

  • Jul 20, 2010
Pros: spot on acting performances by Weaver, Daniels and Hirsch

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:
"You're still alive, she said
Oh, and do I deserve to be
Is that the question
And if so...if so...who answers...who answers...
I, oh, I'm still alive"
~Gossard & Vedder

Watching a family disintegrate after a suicide that hits at its core is a painful thing to observe.  We've seen other films of this nature, more particularly Virgin Suicides or even The Deep End of the Ocean.  While those are both vividly opposite from each other, it is the family dynamic that is brought into the film, as it was in Imaginary Heroes.

Written and directed by Dan Harris, it carries an R rating for substance abuse, sexual content, language and violence.  It was nominated for two awards, winning one.

The story is basically carried in part in narrative form by the younger brother, Tim, recounting the prowess of his older brother, Matt.  Matt is an accomplished swimmer, and in most peoples eyes, an accomplished person.  He is the favored son, the one his classmates vote the most likely to succeed.

However, with all his accolades and awards, he is obviously deeply troubled.  Some of this reality doesn't come out until much later in the film.   The movie sort of starts with his suicide and goes backward and forward in time to encompass the whys and wherefores.

After his death we see the family fall apart, destroy itself, distance itself from each other.  Ben, the father, becomes even more aloof, even resentful and somewhat bizarre after his sons death.  the mother, Sandy, takes a different attitude.  Somewhat foolish at times, ignoring warning signs at others.  She also opens up the most and lets us see more beneath her layers and the secrets she has hidden.   Sister Penny, away at college, remains distant and has but a small part in the film.  Most of the production went toward Tim and Sandy, their interaction with each other, and how he is dealing with his brothers death.

In all, the family is dysfunctional and the flaws are magnified by Matt's decision.

On a personal note, I have dealt with 3 suicides in my family and have seen the resultant damages.  Although I never met him, my father-in-law's suicide devastated his wife and left her a virtual prisoner inside her mind.  It obviously affected his only child, my husband, as well.  He was 18 when his father killed himself. 

Although we had been divorced for 2 years when he decided to take his life, we did have a good connection and we shared custody of our two dependant sons.  Oddly enough, our middle son had just turned 18 when his father died, the youngest was 6 years old.  Whether this led to his own decision to end his life, my youngest son also shot himself at the age of 18, I'll never truly know.

Having lived through 2 of these suicides personally and viewing the mental destruction of my mother-in-law after her husbands death, I felt the characterization employed in this movie was dead-on ... pardon the pun.   The actors chosen to portray this family added a solid humanity to a heartbreaking film.

There is no doubt that Sigourney Weaver carried the majority of the film firmly in her pocket.  She was tender, loving, harsh, broken, incredulous, in her presentation.  As a surviving mother of a child suicide, I felt each phase of the pain as she waded through it in her own humble way.

Jeff Daniels just dissolved as the father figure in the movie.  You could watch each piece of his life slowly slipping away, which is a very believable response to this situation.  Kip Pardue, as the fallen Matt, had such a small part in a film that revolved around his life, and death, it is hard to give him a place in it.  Emile Hirsch shown brightly as Tim ... the confused outsider in the family. 

DVD extras include:  commentary by Sigourney Weaver; commentary by Dan Harris and Emile Hirsch; deleted scenes; "Making of Imaginary Heroes" - a gush fest between all parties, don't bother with it; photo gallery; soundtrack promo; and trailers.

It's not a beautiful film, nor is it original.  It is a solid film, though, that delves inside some dirty secrets and brings some painful truth to the really dirty secret ... suicide.



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review by . August 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Every performance and the story, when they come together, can there be a con      Cons: No there can't be a con when that happens      The Bottom Line: There is a long list of suburban tragedies driven by fear and suspicion. This might look like it at the beginning, but it's significantly different from its cousins.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      …
review by . June 09, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
IMAGINARY HEROES is one fine little film! Written and directed by Dan Harris this story is classic theater, weaving comedy and tragedy together so tightly that the climax of the film takes your breath away.    The Travis family is an odd bunch: no member is who each appears to be. Beginning with a suicide of the reluctant 'hero' child swimming champion Matt (Kip Pardue), the father Ben (Jeff Daniels) falls apart and isolates himself from his family and himself while the mother …
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This realistic family film starring Sigourney Weaver and Emile Hirsch as a loving mother and son asks some deep questions about mortality, the risks of depression, and staying together verses splitting up. Living in a beautiful house in a manicured suburban neighborhood, the Travis family seems flawless at first glance. That is, until the handsome eldest son (Kip Pardue), a star swimmer, commits suicide, leaving the family in pieces. The father (Jeff Daniels), rejects the other members of the family, becoming distant and aloof. The college-student daughter (Michelle Williams), rarely visits home any more. The mother (Weaver), resorts to petty quibbles with her next-door neighbor (Deirdre O'Connell), and develops a minor--but highly amusing--marijuana habit. And the youngest son, Tim (Hirsch)--who is the protagonist and the real victim in the story--searches for meaning, identity, and solace from the chaos that surrounds him. Tim's best friend Kyle (Ryan Donowho) experiments with drugs and sex, providing ...
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