About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
February 2005

By Julian Roman

Imaginary Heroes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Dan Harris
Producers: Iliana Diamant, Moshe Diamant, Frank Hubner, Art Linson, Gina Resnick, & Denise Shaw
Screenwriter: Dan Harris
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Emile Hirsch, Michelle Williams, Ryan Donowho, Kip Pardue, Deirdre O'Connell, Jay Paulson




If there were an award for the most overdramatic film of 2005, Imaginary Heroes would certainly be a contender. It takes the dysfunctional family and runs with it to heights rarely seen on film. Don't get me wrong, heavy dramas are wonderful films if they're done correctly. What you get with Imaginary Heroes is a jumbled mess of catastrophes poorly connected by amateurish filmmaking. The only saving grace is the performance of Sigourney Weaver, who props up the entire cast with her formidable screen presence.

The movie begins with the suicide of the eldest son in the Travis family. Matt Travis (Kip Pardue) was an Olympics-bound swimmer when he takes his life. He leaves his father (Jeff Daniels) with a mental breakdown and mother (Sigourney Weaver) spiraling out of control. The youngest Travis, Tim (Emile Hirsch), is left to fend for himself while everything crashes down around him. Tim's position in his family is the crux of the entire story. He's an outcast by nature and constantly ridiculed by his father. His only allies are his mother, away-at-college sister (Michelle Williams), and best friend Kyle (Ryan Donowho). Tim's relationship with Kyle is bizarre enough to begin with, but unveils into a secret at the core of the Travis's problems.

Dan Harris, the film's writer and director in his debut feature, bites off more than he can chew with this story. He wants to show that a seemingly perfect family can be nothing more than an illusion. There's nothing wrong with this premise, it's been done before, but the Travis's are so flawed; it's hard to believe that they ever existed as a cohesive unit. I won't give away the film's secrets, but they're very disturbing and borderline unbelievable. These people could not have kept quiet for so long without imploding. The suicide of the oldest son should not have taken anybody by surprise. They would all have to be on a constant morphine drip to not see what was coming.

The ending of the film is completely ridiculous. Harris builds up an avalanche of plot twists then resolves it like a half-hour sitcom. I didn't buy for one second that these characters, who are completely screwed up, could get it back together so quickly. The willing suspension of disbelief that you take into a movie does not extend this far. I thought it was very contrived and shows Harris's inability to logically end his plot. It might have worked if there wasn't so much happening at the same time.

Imaginary Heroes is a TV excursion at best. The performances are decent, but it's not worth spending a dime to see this in the theater or rent it on DVD. It's like a Lifetime movie of the week, but with a famous cast. Watch the classic Ordinary People or American Beauty if you want to see this kind of film done properly.