The Hero

Rated 3.0

After I’ll See You in My Dreams and this sunset-gazing ensemble piece, writer-director Brett Haley has proved adept at the sort of spiky yet sensitive explorations of frisky old age that dominate art house theaters these days. Sam Elliott, after playing supporting parts in Dreams and the similarly themed Grandma, stars in The Hero as Lee Hayden, a washed-up western star reduced to doing barbecue sauce commercials. A working actor … how demeaning! Lee learns that he has a virtually unconquerable form of cancer, forcing him to reevaluate his relationships in a methodical, repetitive, one-by-one process that never generates any narrative steam. We get the stoner best friend scene, then the ex-wife scene, then the younger girlfriend scene, then the estranged daughter scene, then rinse and repeat. Elliott is as magnetic as ever, but very little here feels authentic, especially not a drug-addled award speech that turns Lee into a viral star. D.B.