The Hero ★★★½

"Movies are other people's dreams." ~ Lee Hayden

This dramedy from writer-director Brett Haley gives us Sam Elliott as Lee Hayden, a Western entertainer whose best work is long behind him. In the 1970s, he had one hit film, "The Hero," and since then he's been relegated to TV series, voiceovers and bit parts. When a pancreatic cancer biopsy reveals the worst, he visits his friend Jeremy Ford (Nick Offerman) to score some grass. Jeremy introduces him to a friend, Charlotte Dylan (Laura Prepon).

It turns out that the 30-something stand-up comedian is into older men and she initiates an affair with the 71-year-old actor. He takes her to a minor awards ceremony, where he's to receive a Lifetime Achievement honor, and during the acceptance speech, he invites a random member of the audience up on the stage and gives the prize to her, on behalf of all the everyday heroes in the world.

The upshot of this is that a video of the event goes viral, which puts Hayden back in the public eye. He starts getting offers for voicework and a real part in a real movie. Sadly, there's nothing he can do win the affection of his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), who blames him for being too busy to bond with her when she was growing up. Ain't it just the way parent-child relationships often go? And his ex-wife Valarie (Katherine Ross) doesn't have much use for him either. Also very familiar, no?

Can't say this did much for me as a tale of May-December romance, but Elliott is always a treat to watch, and I could take a lot more of Prepon, clothing optional, even if her comedy monologue fell kinda flat. At Sundance, Haley got a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize (dramatic). See it for a rainy day matinee. It's pretty good.

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