Directed by: Spencer Susser
Cast: Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: May 13, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: While suffering a great loss, a young boy (Brochu) and his grieving father (Wilson) are given an unexpected visit by an impulsively destructive individual (Gordon-Levitt) who does whatever the hell he wants to.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Anyone with both the patience (or taste) for 80’s Metallica and art house filmmaking.
EXPECTATIONS: What is there to expect with a movie like Hesher? Is an image of that guy from 500 Days of Summer now with long hair and a pyro problem not enough to get you on board? It was all I needed.
Devin Brochu as TJ: The young actor provides a unique performance as a young boy being pulled by both grief and impending maturity, as he is put into some bizarre interactions of unflinching debauchery. He can rage on a heightened level of angst that we think only Hesher has.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher: F**k your attempts to try to make sense of this character/creature of anarchy. Hesher is real, he isn’t real, he’s just there. Like this whole movie, he can be difficult to wrap your head around. He doesn’t believe in reasoning, that’s for sure. Regardless of whether you “get” him or not, Gordon-Levitt gives a full headbanging performance as this compelling title character of mystery and extreme amusement.
Natalie Portman as Nicole: We’ve seen Portman on the big screen a fair amount since her Black Swan Oscar victory. This isn’t going to be one of her notable roles, as she’s coincidentally like her character in last week’s Thor. Although she produced it, she’s kind of plain here, and lets the Hesher universe revolve around her whenever the story sees fit. Of course, there’s a funny Anakin and Padme connection here, with TJ developing a crush on Nicole.
Rainn Wilson as Paul: Along with films like Super, Wilson continues to take himself outside of The Office with striking dramatic moments. Here, he provides a weepy performance as the widowed husband who literally fades away with the gloomy color palette of this movie.
TALKING: Adding to his extreme ambiguity, Hesher speaks in random monologues about extreme subjects, such as death, and a pet he once had. Each speech comes with the same “WTF?” placement in a moment, but are nonetheless hard not to listen to.
SIGHTS: The often pleasing camera work sucks the colors out of a mid-80’s L.A., with the entire land looking like its been consumed by gray clouds. There are some dynamic shots in the film captured with a handheld camera.
SOUNDS: The Hesher soundtrack is comprised mostly of 80’s metal, featuring the most ruthless tunes by Motorhead and Metallica. The prominent usage of such music provides an attitude to the movie’s mosh pit of emotions, and its general wildness.
BEST SCENE: After Hesher destroys a random backyard pool, he walks away and simply says “I have a doctor’s appointment.”
ENDING: TJ finally takes his grandmother for a walk, with the push from Hesher (of course).
QUESTIONS: As many questions as Hesher may generate, it definitely doesn’t have any answers. Better luck somewhere else.
REWATCHABILITY: I’d watch Hesher for a second time to just bask in its craziness, but the movie doesn’t warrant repeat viewings. It’s not an easy movie to recommend to friends, either.
Hesher is an odd creature. Like its unpredictable title character, played with beautiful ruthlessness by a surprising Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the movie fluctuates with its severe tones, and in turn its unpredictability becomes captivating. At times the film can be quite sad, as unexpected loss glooms over the family in which Hesher randomly shacks up with. On the other hand, it can be hilariously crazy, with Gordon-Levitt’s character doing whatever the f**k he wants. (After completely trashing a piece of property, he simply walks away and says, “I have a doctor’s appointment.”)
“He came, he ate, he stayed.” This is the tagline for the Phil Hartman and Sinbad comedy Houseguest, and it certainly shares poster ethos with Hesher. But unlike any movie of its type, whether it’s a film about grief or even of growing up, Hesher parades around with its own pride, messes with the audience’s expectations, invites them into the strange story, and then abruptly tells us to f**k off. Like a piss stain that will be on your rug forever, in his own unique way, Hesher is unforgettable.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10