Imaginary Heroes

Rated R 2005

The manicured lawns and expensively furnished living rooms of upper-middle-class suburbia have been so thoroughly overrun by filmmakers looking for Caucasian dysfunction that there's hardly any trauma left to mine. Still, an obviously talented young writer/director named Dan Harris (he co-wrote the blockbuster sequel X2: X-Men United) presses on into American Beauty/Ice Storm territory with bold ambition, where the comfortably installed Travis family must cope with the suicide of its eldest child. Mom (Sigourney Weaver) takes to smoking pot; Dad (a disheveled Jeff Daniels) stops going to work and takes out his resentments on everyone else; 17-year-old Tim (Emile Hirsch), the focus here, quits playing piano, dumps his girlfriend, and starts pondering the dark questions of life. Harris stuffs enough drugs, booze, sex, grief, and soul-killing family secrets into his screenplay that it threatens to burst, but this impressive debut signals some fine grown-up stuff to come.

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