Hesher (2010)

September 06, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

This isn’t your typical film that deals with loss and mourning, as the remedy for loss is a blunt, self-tattooed, socially-challenged pyromaniac named Hesher. This is Director Spencer Susser’s debut feature film, and it’s one that charges the audience head-on  with its main character. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in the title role, Natalie Portman, and a talented young star named Devin Brochu.

The film is shot in a sobering tone, gritty and realistically plain, with touches of finesse, like a slow motion shot of Hesher taking a drag of his cigarette or a clever transition from a flashback of a car crash to the same car being crushed at a junk yard. The script mixes dark comedy that doesn’t hold back, as it headbangs the audience, with drama that you can truly feel through the characters. Hesher is a character-driven film, and all the characters keep up with the amazing lead. The film will make you laugh at scenarios or actions that are absurd, and even violent, but also goes back to getting in touch with the characters feelings.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a force as Hesher, one of his best roles to date. He is amazing as the beautiful train-wreck that is Hesher: a person that is straight forward, crass and insane, but very truthful. Much of the time he is menacing, oddly humorous, and even seems so outside of the world that he can’t connect; however, you realize that he is connecting with the other characters, albeit in his own way. Gordon-Levitt absorbs the mess of a character, holding that menacing glare, but he doesn’t forget to let us into his pain in silent moments that tell us he’s not emotionless.

Holding his own against Gordon-Levitt is Devin Brochu, playing a boy named TJ who has recently lost his mother. Brochu displays an authentic kind of madness and annoyance of someone confronted with loss and death at such a young age. There’s a rage and pain in his eyes at times that burns through the screen. Both Hesher and TJ understand each other on an unknown level, because they both live in their own little corner of the world. Natalie Portman does well with her small role as Nicole, a do-right “lady” that can’t seem to catch a break. Rainn Wilson also does a solid job as TJ’s father, Paul, a man that is truly numb to the death of his wife.

Hesher is almost like that version inside of us that is unfiltered, with a don’t-take-no-shit-from-nobody attitude, and a keep-it-real mentality that almost never sees the light of day because we’re too afraid to let that side of us out. That side is therapy for a world that confuses insanity for sanity, and Hesher is that therapy in a way, entering TJ’s life in a time of agony. The film deals with loss, and how we’re so fixated on what we lose that we don’t realize what we have. It’s about expressing without regard of anything at all. Hesher may a bit of a mess, but it’s a moving mess, just like life.

 Potential Drawbacks:

There’s really no solid story to the film because it’s a character-driven film, so some viewers may think the “film goes nowhere.” The dialogue and actions of Hesher may also be offensive to more conventional viewers.

There are also those that may not know what to think of Hesher, as he is strange and interesting, but he may be too strange for some to stomach. Some may admire Gordon-Levitt’s performance, but can’t seem to connect with the character of Hesher at all.

Additionally, there may be some viewers that might be bothered with the drama mixed with dark comedy.

Film Recommendations:

Mysterious Skin
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest





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