JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT DEVIN BROCHU NATALIE PORTMAN RAINN WILSON
Hesher is a strange film. It seems to want to be a downer drama about the death of a mother who left her pathetic husband and disturbed child to wither away in their own pain. Yet, a strange pot smoking rock and roll character creates chaos in their lives and everyone around, bringing this strange dark (and raunchy) comedy into the mix. Under the guise of a true independent film, Hesher was written and directed by Spencer Susser, who up until now, was only known for his short films. Including recent Oscar winner Portman and Levitt off the heels of Inception, this movie likely got more attention than it deserved. However, I suspect for those die hard Levitt fans (and I know you’re out there), this is a film for him to play against type.
Recovering from the death of mother and wife, thirteen year old TJ (Brochu) and the very medicated Paul (Wilson) don’t have anywhere to turn. They are living with Paul’s mother Madeleine (Piper Laurie), who is feeble and barely in her own mind. TJ desperately wants to recover the totaled vehicle that tore apart his family. Instead, he runs into dead beat Hesher, whose long hair and off tattoos don’t begin to hint at his destructive personality. He moves in with TJ and family, eats their food and watches the anger unfold between them. After TJ is saved by a young “lady” in the parking lot from a bully, he develops a crush on this grocery store checkout girl (Portman) who has issues of her own.
This screenplay deserves praise for at least presenting a story that has no assumed conclusion. It’s hard to compare this type of film to anything or even pin point a genre. It’s all over the place in a matter of minutes, from the dramatic scenes of this young boy trying to deal with a tragedy on his own to the out of control Hesher, whose purpose in life is never explained. The real stand out performance here lies with Laurie as the grandmother; she is the only character that seems realistic, or maybe that’s because we are conditioned to pity her from the script. Wilson does so little, and from what I have seen of his other work, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of range.
Hesher, like I said, is torn between what kind of film it actually wants to be, which is confusing for the audience. The amount of vulgar language in the film is appalling, especially coming from the young boy. At times where there is food thrown all over the kitchen, bodies lying around and cars on fire, you wonder if this isn’t like the trailer park diaries or something. There is some interesting dialogue from Hesher about losing a testicle, followed by an ironic scene of the three males on a final walk with a casket. If Hesher is anything, it’s an eclectic bag of emotions and rage.
Final Thought – Completely outrageous, not always in a good way.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody