Tag Archives: Krysten Ritter

This Dude Abides

The Hero

by Hope Madden

Somebody finally wrote a starring role for Sam Elliott. Let’s be honest, we all love him. What’s not to love? His lived-in masculinity, mannered charm and sonorous delivery make every line a comic/dramatic/romantic dream.

His latest film, the Brett Haley directed and co-penned The Hero, feels like an attempt to give Elliott his own The Wrestler or Crazy Heart.

I’m cool with that.

Haley was responsible for the 2015 life-renewing romance I’ll See You In My Dreams, a post-middle-age adventure starring Blythe Danner, with Elliott joining as her mustachioed gentleman caller.

With Hero, Haley places Elliott firmly in the lead of another “life begins when you decide it does” kind of story.

In a role undoubtedly written specifically for the actor, Elliott plays an aging performer who’s knocked around Hollywood for decades but is best known for his deep, cowboy voice. The film opens with that memorable baritone recommending, “Lone Star barbeque sauce – the perfect pardner for your chicken.”

It’s an inspired scene, full of humorous indignity and carried beautifully by the voice-over veteran. It’s really a shame Haley can’t build on it.

Elliott’s Lee Hayden has cause to reevaluate his life when a health issue, a lifetime achievement award, a viral video and a surprising new girlfriend all collide unexpectedly. Oh, so many reasons to contemplate your own mortality.

Elliott’s quiet, moseying way remains as enigmatic and charming as it ever has been, and seeing him play a character so very close to himself is sometimes eerie. Real-life wife Katharine Ross even plays his ex.

The film scores highest marks in two scenes with Ross, and in everything with a delightful Nick Offerman, playing against type as Lee’s goofy former co-star and current weed dealer.

It derails hardest, though, when it tries to juggle a distant relationship with a daughter (Krysten Ritter) and a new romance with a hot, much younger woman (Laura Prepon).

The Hero breaks no new ground. Had Haley and co-writer Marc Basch (who also co-wrote Dreams) thrown one or two fewer contrivances at us, or found perhaps a fresher way to contend with their obvious choices, they might have had something.

Instead they ride Elliott’s charm and settle for sentimentality, which is such a shame. It’s high time Sam Elliott gets to lead his own movie, but he deserves a little more than this.


Just Breathe


by Hope Madden

A bruised, muscular romanticism – a nostalgia for a hipper, more rebellious and gorgeous reality – informs Jake Hoffman’s Asthma.

The beautifully damaged Gus (Benedict Samuel) can’t claim a place in the generic uniformity of the modern world. He longs for the grittier and richer reality he believes came and went before his time. So he steals a Rolls, picks up the girl he admires, and attempts the kind of tragically restless road trip you might find in a Godard film.

All of which would feel precious were it not for erratic but solid performances, and a revelation that unveils Gus as the poseur we knew he was. Surprisingly, Hoffman and Samuel are able to mine that late-film revelation to connect the lead with the ordinary Joe in the audience, and still make his troubles resonate because of the genuine pain in the performance.

For all the film’s showy quirks – Nick Nolte, for instance, is the voice of Gus’s Guardian Angel/Wolfman – Hoffman’s abrupt manner with both camera and soundtrack keep things from feeling frivolous or pretentious.

The slew of peculiar folk Gus meets along his journey nearly chokes any hint of authenticity from Asthma, although the great (and appropriate) Iggy Pop is like a needed and timely punch in the gut to a film just about to topple over with its own quirkiness.

For a hyper-masculine road-type-picture, Asthma boasts a surprisingly nuanced female lead. Yes, Krysten Ritter’s Ruby looks like the typical off-beat beauty, and her character is certainly the right combination of naughty and nice to fit the bill, but Ritter never lets the character off too easy. She makes poor decisions, kicks herself for them, hardens, and moves on – all with a grace that feels of this time and of another.

There’s an addiction theme that threatens to hold the film together, give it purpose and drive, but often feels like the least authentic piece of the movie. Without it, though, Asthma too often comes off as a nostalgic riff on another era’s nostalgic riffs.

Hoffman’s a confident first time filmmaker with a product that is great to look if purposeless – kind of like Gus.