If The Hero works at all, it’s because Elliott brings a measure of emotional truth to even the most sentimental of plot developments, and because Haley exudes such warm patience for his lead actor’s rhythms and cadences.
It’s as if Haley viewed his star’s strengths — laconic wit, unforced masculinity, polite romanticism — as the only elements needed for a Sam Elliott showcase, rather than as the building blocks from which to mold an original character.
Lee Hayden is an aging Western icon with a golden voice, but his best performances are decades behind him. He spends his days reliving old glories and smoking too much weed with his former-co-star-turned-dealer, Jeremy, until a surprise cancer diagnosis brings his priorities into sharp focus. He soon strikes up an exciting, contentious relationship with stand-up comic Charlotte, and he attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Lucy, all while searching for one final role to cement his legacy.