Last year, award nominators declared Diane Keaton’s ditzy playwright in Something’s Gotta Give a juicy role for a woman of a certain age. Now writer-director Dan Harris is garnering some praise for gifting Sigourney Weaver the role of Sandy Travis, a hip suburban mom dealing with her son’s suicide, an equally dead marriage, and two willful remaining kids. But despite Weaver’s wise instincts for the thoughtful pause, we’re stuck with yet another ass-kicking female actor struggling to shade in the contours of a wispy sketch. The 25-year-old Harris, tapped to co-write the X2 script on the strength of a Heroes draft, does better with characters closer to his age. Sandy’s teen son Tim is played by Emile Hirsch, who ably embodies mom-loving levity, dad-hating glower, and general monkey-spanking awkwardness.
Shot with typical luminescence by Tim Orr, interactions between Tim and boy-next-door Kyle (Ryan Donowho) move from idyllically doped McJobbing and snowy roughhousing to Ecstasy-enhanced kissing. These moments play dreamily true. As do Tim’s inarticulate tangles with his girlfriend and his gauntlet march down high school halls after his star-athlete brother’s death. Conversely, the interior lives of Heroes‘ adults seem like wild guesses. Jeff Daniels’s Ben Travis is the dumber-est of all, emerging from catatonic grief only to spew shallow clichés. A supposedly comedic bit that finds control-freak Sandy suddenly going all goofy while trying to score pot is an inexplicable detour. Also, in light of Weaver’s enduring hotness, Harris might have nixed the scene where Ben offers his aging wife plastic surgery for her birthday. The ostensibly stuffy, mansion-dotted milieu, too, lacks cohesion—absurdist jags, like a neighborhood holiday party graced with a performance by Kiki and Herb, mitigate the intended suburban claustrophobia. I mean, we’d sure have less suburban angst if every conflicted American beauty had neighbors who openly partied with trannies. And maybe less suburban-angst art as well.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2004