Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Screen Angst: Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis on Imaginary Heroes

Do you ever see a movie and think, "Man, I wish I wrote that!" I imagine Dan Harris saw Ordinary People and thought that very thought. So he sat down and wrote Imaginary Heroes. I don't think he was trying to hide the similarities; the title itself seems to indicate that these movies are in conversation with one another. But Imaginary Heroes and Ordinary People are two trains starting at the same station and then heading in completely opposite directions.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes 
What is this metaphorical train station of which I speak? It is the train station of dead idolized older brothers in white suburban families. (Are we all picturing a train station full of dead white boys now? Good. I knew I could work this around to WEIRD in a matter of moments...)

Emile Hirsch and Sigourney Weaver as Tim and Sandy Travis in Imaginary Heroes 
Imaginary Heroes is lead by Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis. This kid Tim cannot catch a break. I swear, there are few characters who get as emotionally pounded as Tim gets throughout the course of this film.  What better way to start the suffering than with Tim finding the dead body of his older brother.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Tim's brother, Matt, was the golden boy of the family. Their father had pinned all his hopes and dreams on him. Matt was the hard worker. Matt was special one. Matt was going to be somebody. Tim is an afterthought and he knows it. At Matt's funeral, some inappropriate bystander starts prattling on about how great Tim will be when he hits high school. Daddy Travis (Ben) tells inappropriate bystander that Tim is currently a senior and lightening doesn't strike twice. AND he has no qualms about saying it right in front of Tim. Cold. Sorry, Tim. You're not lighting. Or... the thing that has been struck by lightening? I don't know...it's a complicated metaphor. I'm more comfortable with train stations.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Then Tim's sister wants to know what finding the body was like. Great! Yeah! That's just what he wants to talk about.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
At dinner, Daddy Dearest  is making them set a place for Matt every night. It's creepy. And when Tim wants more chicken, daddy says no. Even when Tim is the living one and Matt is the dead one, Tim still comes second. Ben then declares that Matt was the ONLY thing that mattered in the family. So Tim's lack of mattering is well established by the movie's fifteen minute mark.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
While Tim's dad is one of his largest sources of angst, the heart in the film comes from his relationship with his mom. Of all the characters in the film, she seems the most youthful. She's straight forward, ballsy, and clearly a product of the 70s. They have some great conversations about emotions and feelings that somehow don't seem forced or contrived.

Emile Hirsch and Sigourney Weaver as Tim and Sandy Travis in Imaginary Heroes 
The other big source of Tim's angst is wtf goes down with this guy vvv His BFF and next-door neighbor, Kyle. OMG. I love angst. But hold on. I'm not there yet.

Emile Hirsch and Ryan Donowho as Tim Travis and Kyle Dwyer in Imaginary Heroes 
Tim has a girlfriend too. Where everyone else is completely insensitive, she's a little too sensitive. Believe me, girlfriend girl, I get it. It'd be difficult not to constantly do the "I'm here if you need to talk" thing when your boyfriend's perfect brother just killed himself. But she really drops the ball during the "What do you think of euthanasia?" conversation that he initiates. She doest get that Tim is working his way around to talking about his brother.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
So he suggests sex as a way to get out of the awkward non-converstaion they're having. At which point she realizes he's covered in bruises. And she's all wtf? And he's all, "I don't want to talk about it!" and storms off.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Then a girl at school kills herself. And Tim takes it pretty hard. Especially because her "friend" reads some Pearl Jam song lyrics and assumes they're an original work by dead girl.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Then we work our way around to the Christmas Party. Or what I like to call Angsty Moment #423. Ben demands that Tim play the piano. Tim doesn't want to. Ben is all "Show them you're good at something!" And Tim just stands there like a wounded puppy. ANGST. On the drive home, Ben says he wants all his money back that he spent on Tim's piano lessons. What a d-bag.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Now the doozy. Tim and Kyle attend a raucous New Years Eve party. They drop some E and moments later find themselves making out at midnight. That's all well and good...for now.

Emile Hirsch and Ryan Donowho as Tim Travis and Kyle Dwyer in Imaginary Heroes brothers incest make out
Angst-wise - the next morning Kyle's like, 'I'm not gay. Maybe you are. But I'm not.' So great. Another way in which Tim feels alone.

Ryan Donowho as Kyle Dwyer in Imaginary Heroes half-brothers make out incest Imaginary Heroes brothers
The next day, his mom asks if he's ever considered killing himself. It leads to him admitting that he feels like he doesn't fit in to the family. No shit. Ben seems to want nothing more than for Tim to just disappear. He doesn't try to hide it. Tim's mom loves him - but she seems to be the only one.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
At school, Tim has his head bashed into a mirror. Because why wouldn't he get beaten up at school too?

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Kyle beats up the guy that did it. Aww. They still love each other.

Emile Hirsch and Ryan Donowho as Tim Travis and Kyle Dwyer in Imaginary Heroes brothers incest make out
Later, Michelle Williams - the unnecessary sister - cries. I like this moment because my only child self likes seeing brothers and sisters be there for each other.

Emile Hirsch and Michelle Williams as Tim and Penny Travis in Imaginary Heroes

Believe it or not, I'm not trying to recap the WHOLE damn movie.  But every Emile Hirsch scene is angsty...


Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Okay. THEN. Tim finds out Ben's not actually his dad. Kyle's dad is Tim's dad. Remember how he made out and then presumably slept with Kyle? Remember that? Yeah. They're half-brothers. INCEST. ANGST. BOOM!!

Emile Hirsch and Sigourney Weaver as Tim and Sandy Travis in Imaginary Heroes 
And then the best, angstiest scene in the movie. Now that Tim knows the truth, it all makes sense. Ben hates him because he's not his dad. Tim is a constant reminder that Ben was cheated on. And Ben's biological son - the one that looked like him and was good at everything - he's dead. And Tim's not. Obviously, Ben shouldn't take his unhappiness out on Tim. And Tim, rightfully, is pissed that all these years, he wasn't imagining that he didn't fit in. Ben and Matt really were treating him like an outsider, only he didn't know why.  Tim gets drunk and finally confronts Ben about his lack of dad skills.

Emile Hirsch and Jeff Daniels as Tim and Ben Travis in Imaginary Heroes Tim hugs Dad at end
At first you don't know where this is going. Tim tells his dad to screw off, he hates him, he doesn't want to know him. Ben approaches Tim, possibly to kick the crap out him. But he doesn't. He yanks him in to the most one sided hug of all time and tells him he doesn't care who Tim's biological father is, he's his father and he loves him.

Emile Hirsch and Jeff Daniels as Tim and Ben Travis in Imaginary Heroes Tim hugs Dad at end
So what if Ben's arc was a tinsy bit forced? Tim needed to be accepted and Ben needed to connect with him. Awwww.

Emile Hirsch and Jeff Daniels as Tim and Ben Travis in Imaginary Heroes Tim hugs Dad at end
Graduation day comes and now that Tim's all hunky-dory with the parents, he returns to piano and plays a little tune while reminiscing about the night his brother died. 

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
Aaaannnnddd the angst keeps coming. Turns out, Matt used to pound the crap out of Tim.  Hence bruises. The night Matt killed himself, he pretty much said to Tim, should I do it? And Tim basically said yep. Catch you on the flip side.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
So Tim has guilt angst too.

Emile Hirsch and Kip Pardue as Tim and Matt Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch Tim Travis Imaginary Heroes
But then pianos are played, catharsis is reached, and Tim and Kyle acknowledge in NO way that they've hooked up.

Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes Emile Hirsch as Tim Travis in Imaginary Heroes
The end. I didn't even talk about the car crash or the time he spent in the hospital or the bit where he gets punched in the face. Imaginary Heroes is one of those movies where you sort of just take it for what it is. The angst is through the roof and I love me some Emile Hirsh. But there are quite a few underdeveloped story-lines and a character here or there who arcs without much motivation. It's not the BEST movie ever, but Tim is tortured and sad and it always gets me when Jeff Daniels does the force-hug at the end. Conclusion? There should be more forced hugs in things.

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