Film review: “Imaginary Heroes”

When I first saw the trailer for “Imaginary Heroes” two months ago, I rolled my eyes, dreading what I thought would be a cheap knock-off of “American Beauty.”

But when I saw the film, I was pleasantly surprised to find it engaging and heartwarming with very unique characters.

“Imaginary Heroes,” directed by Dan Harris, opens with an introduction of Matt (Kip Pardue), the elder of the Travis brothers. His younger brother, Tim, narrates the first few minutes of the film, describing his brother’s accomplishments and accolaides as a star swimmer. Secretly unhappy with his life and the high expectations set for him, Matt shoots himself in the head soon after. The rest of the film follows the four surviving members of the Travis family as they cope with Matt’s death and privately evaluate their own lives.

The primary actors in the film are nothing short of exceptional. Emile Hirsch integrates a convincing aloofness and apathy into his portrayal of Tim, and Jeff Daniels skillfully plays Ben, the father of the family, shattered by the death of his favorite child.

But Sigourney Weaver, playing Sandy, the mother of the family, truly shines. She presents a multifaceted character — sometimes a “cool mom” who relates to her children and smokes pot, and at other times an intensely sad woman ashamed of her past. The dialogue between Sandy and Tim is, without a doubt, the most convincing and moving element of the film.

“Imaginary Heroes” is no “Ordinary People” or “American Beauty.” The overcomplicated and incohensive plot will prevent the film from becoming an American classic. But the film does effectively explore a different side of familial dysfunction, showing viewers that, even within a seemingly tight-knit suburban household, everyone has secrets and regrets.

–Ryan Wenzel