Now comes that time of every year where I nearly give up hope in the film industry. Then, out of the shadows of Sundance, came one of the most raw, emotionally compelling, and well-acted dramas of this decade. Not too long after (one week to be precise), I was treated to one of the most original, funny, and perfectly-paced comedies of the same decade. After posting the Despicable Me 3 review, I had to decide which of these two treasures to review first. After way too much inner debate, it came to me, “Why not make a double-feature?” This way, I can hit two birds with one stone and explain why these movies are a trillion times better than anything released since Logan (four months ago).
The Hero is directed by Brett Haley and written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch. Stars-Sam Elliott, Nick Offerman, Laura Prepon, and Katherine Ross. Premise-An aging movie star’s life changes when he meets a woman, confronts his broken family, and accepts his place in the universe.
The Big Sick is directed by Michael Showalter and written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. Stars-Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. Premise-A Pakistani stand-up comic meets a Caucasian girl, who’s studying to become a therapist, and a relationship blooms. However, the cultural barrier between their families proves to be a difficult hurdle to leap.
I’ve grown tired of reviewing movies that (while popular) are unimportant. The stupid action romps (The Great Wall, The Fate of the Furious, etc.), the forgettable cash grabs (Alien: Covenant, Despicable Me 3, etc.) and all the above-average superhero flicks! Apologies if I sound melodramatic, after watching these two movies, it’s much more obvious how generic this year has been. By the end of this review, you’ll feel the same way.
Both of these films are dramedies, and while The Hero is more focused (and thus more effective) with the drama portion, The Big Sick soars with its upbeat, wildly varied humor. Every single character gets plenty of time to shine, and once the second act shows up, the jokes are much more frequent and will induce belly laughs. Oh, and Bo Burnham plays a wise-cracking friend. I rest my case.
The Hero isn’t bereft of a joke or two, but they are few and far between. Instead, it plays to its strengths of relatable human issues like accepting fate/mortality, loss of popularity, broken hearts, and addictions. Things get really serious with this movie, but unlike with Manchester by the Sea, the main character actually has a few bright moments in his bleak life, thus it doesn’t just come across as, “Feel sorry for him! Feel sorry for him!” Many critics have pointed out the clichés, but I think they’re overcome by the earnest writing and compelling performances. Oh yeah, can we please take a moment to discuss the acting with these movies?
I can already see a SAG nomination for The Big Sick, which makes sense considering that everyone has ample screentime (especially Nanjiani and Romano), but there is one particular veteran who steals the show today. The Mustache himself, Samuel Pack Elliott. I’ve thought long and hard about how to properly overstate how honest, emotional, and convincing his performance is, but the best thing I can come up with is this…mildly sassy statement, “If Sam Elliott doesn’t get an Oscar Nomination for Best Leading Actor I will pitch a fit which will be heard around the world and the ears of the innocent shall bleed at its wrath as every single Academy member will suffer a marathon of Adam Sandler productions, Clockwork Orange style.” It’s some dang powerful stuff. The Hero is worth watching purely to see Elliot finally receive a leading role in film that showcases his best.
The last things to talk about are the stories, and there are definitely some clichés with both films. However, if the casts weren’t enough to remedy that, the narrative of The Big Sick takes many twists and turns. It’s almost like watching a documentary because of how detailed the main character’s life is. Not one part of it is left to the wayside; his family, friends, job, personal aspirations, uncertain beliefs, heartache, and personality are all fully developed. The tone never gets too sad or too sentimental, the writers knew exactly when a joke was necessary (and the joke was always funny). The Hero is a genuine, straight, story of a man’s life and it works well; well enough to bring you to tears if you’re not made of stone. I urge you, and you, and you, and you to watch at least one of these movies very soon. You will not regret it.
I hope this post was to your liking as I greatly enjoyed the writing process. This isn’t something I usually say, but please support these films by watching them or bugging your friends to see them since these are the types of real films that audiences deserve. As for me, I’m going to buy some Lone Star Barbecue Sauce and expand the cultural diversity of my friend group. The Hero earns Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+ and The Big Sick earns Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.