(director/writer/editor: Bret Haley; screenwriter: Marc Basch; cinematographer: Rob C. Givens; music: Keegan DeWitt; cast: Sam Ellott (Lee Hayden), Nick Offerman (Jeremy), Krysten Ritter (Lucy), Katherine Ross (Valerie Hayden), Laura Prepon (Charlotte), Jackie Joyner (Betsy); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Houston King, Sam Bisbee, Erik Rommesmo; The Orchard; 2017)

It’s a small film that effectively pleases even if it can’t sell us everything it’s selling.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Bret Haley (“The New Year”/”I’ll See You in my Dreams”) directs and co-writes with Marc Basch this languidly paced tender film, that plays out as an overly familiar drama about a washed-up aging actor. It covers no new ground, but the star performance by Sam Elliott is priceless. Sam Elliott plays Lee Hayden, an unemployed 71-year-old iconic Western actor who is divorced, self-centered and was just diagnosed with an untreatable cancer. In the opening sequence, the Malibu living Lee, to pay his bills, is in a sound booth recording a TV commercial for a barbecue sauce and is patiently doing numerous takes of the exact same line-reading that goes like this “The per-fect pardner for your chick-en.” He then visits his much younger actor pal, now a drug dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), and while watching Buster Keaton’s The General is getting stoned when he tells his pal he yearns to make another major film. Lee became a legend 40 years ago when he starred in The Hero, but through the years just kept busy doing ordinary films and TV serials while living off the film that made him a star. At the dealer’s place he connects with a much younger sultry woman, Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who is an aspiring stand-up comedian. The plot gets strained as Lee develops a cautious improbable romance with Charlotte, tries to patch up his estranged relationship with his neglected 34-year-old single daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), maintain good relations with his former wife, a successful artist named Valerie (Katharine Ross, his real-life wife) and gets another chance to be in A-list films when he becomes in demand after a video of him goes viral on social media showing him as he delivers a cutesy acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at an organization named the Western Appreciation and Preservation Guild. Though the plot is contrived, belabored and stale, Elliott is a soothing presence with his colorful mustache, golden voice and serene manner. It’s a small film that effectively pleases even if it can’t sell us everything it’s selling.

REVIEWED ON 11/25/2017 GRADE: B-    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/