The Movie Hero

Rating 2¾

Written and directed by Brad T Gottfred

Starring Jeremy Sisto, Dina Meyer, Peter Stormare, Brian J White, Carlos Jacott, Marcia Strassman, Eric Pierpoint, Frances Bay and Alexis Arquette

Blake Gardner (Jeremy Sisto) believes his life is a movie in which he is the hero and his every move is watched by his own personal audience. He creates a plot, including a “Suspicious Character” (Peter Stormare, who was also one of the film’s executive producers) and a “Sidekick” (Brian J White).

He is sent for psychiatric evaluation and his novice therapist Elisabeth Orlando (Dina Meyer) becomes his “love interest” in his imaginary film. When Blake crosses over the boundaries of doctor/patient relations, Elisabeth’s fiancé Jonathan (Carlos Jacott), a successful novelist, tells him some painful home truths, correctly identifying that his delusions are substituting for his failed dreams of becoming a movie star.

A great many small-budget independent films tend to aim for quirky. Some end up being either very engaging and charming (for example, ‘Juno’), but many are painfully irritating (‘Brick’). The response of the viewer, one way or the other, will always be very subjective and individual. ‘The Movie Hero’ (which is also known as ‘Frame of Mind’) straddles a very fine line between the two. Initially, I found it leaning worryingly towards the irritating, but it gradually pulled me in and became more interesting, particularly during the middle part of the film when the stylised quirkiness began to give way to a slightly darker tone.

To all intents and purposes, this is a rom-com, although it also deals with reality and the nature of fame, as well as acting as a kind of love letter to the magic of films. It is, however, for all its quirks and pretensions, just as formulaic as any mainstream Hollywood rom-com.

The central message the film asks is whether happiness is a delusion. In one particularly wistful scene an elderly woman (Frances Bay) confides to Elisabeth that she hates shopping. As the conversation continues it becomes apparent she has just bought a new dress to wear at the funeral of her husband and is agonising if she has made the right choice. Suddenly, it occurs to her that the dress zips up at the back and tears well up in her eyes as she asks, “Who will zip me up now?”

The main flaw in the film for me is the painfully hammy performance of Peter Stormare. The “suspicious character” would seem to be the link between Blake’s delusional world and the real world as symbolised by his sessions with Elisabeth, but frankly I could not make any sense of what it was supposed to signify.

The film relies heavily on the central character being likeable and engaging rather than annoying and tiresome. Jeremy Sisto manages to achieve this. Sisto has an extensive portfolio of work, including films like ‘Clueless’, ‘Thirteen’ and ‘Wrong Turn’ and regular roles in television shows like ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘Law & Order’.

In the end, the film is probably too whimsical and too knowingly clever, without actually being quite clever enough. For example, it is no match for Woody Allen’s 1985 film ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’. Having said that, it has plenty of nice touches and if it doesn’t annoy you it will certainly entertain you.

‘The Movie Hero’ won several awards, including Best Supporting Actress for the ever-reliable Dina Meyer at the Dahlonega International Film Festival.

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