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T.J., a high school freshman, lost his mother two months before in a car accident: his father pops pills and sits on the couch; his grandmother holds things together, chatting and cooking. T.J. wants the car back from the salvage yard where the owner's son is a bully. By happenstance, Hesher, a foul-mouthed squatter, moves in with T.J's family. T.J. also meets Nicole, a grocery clerk near poverty who helps him once. Hesher involves T.J. in crime, the bully is omnipresent, mom's car is slipping away, dad has checked out, T.J. watches Nicole at work, and his grandma invites him to join her morning walk: the odds are long that T.J. can assemble a family to help him thrive. Written by
Simply put, Hesher is an exploration of loss: a universal experience shared by the film's characters: a nihilistic head-banging arsonist named Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a supermarket clerk with thick-rimmed eyeglasses and financial troubles named Nicole (Natalie Portman) who doesn't like being called "lady", a depressed widower named Paul (Rainn Wilson) who takes pills and sleeps all day, and a boy named T.J (Devin Brochu) who recently lost his mother, has a crush on an older woman, and is constantly bullied at school.
There are equal moments of humor and sorrow that bring a unique balance to the film. The best way I can talk about a film is by talking about the particular moments that stood out and made it such a beautiful picture. There is a particular scene where TJ and Paul go to a self help group to help cope with their loss that is one of the most brutally realistic and painful, yet beautiful scenes I have seen on film. Seeing these people talk about their grief was like watching real people as opposed to actors. That is how good the performances are.
Aside from well-executed emotion-drenching scenes such as that one, there are also real subtle touches in the dialogue between the characters that I rarely see in other films. There is a tender scene where Nicole saves T.J. from a bully. After offering him a ride home, she confesses that the reason she helped was because she didn't want to turn on the news that night and see that a young boy was beaten to death in a parking lot. She really did it for herself so she wouldn't feel guilty later and she apologizes for being selfish like that. The irony here being that that the fact she would feel guilty about something like that makes her a good person and someone who really wants to help.
There is great acting from all involved, particularly Levitt, Wilson, and Brochu. Levitt's actor shows hardly any emotion but there is a particular scene involving a close up where you can gradually see his eyes water as his heart breaks. Wilson continues to impress. He was great in Super and was amazingly real here as well. His heartache and apathy is devastating to watch and shows you how much pain he is in. But the best performance comes from Devin Brochu. He is amazingly good for someone that young. To be able to incorporate a character so completely and fearlessly is amazing to watch. The audience feels for this young boy and you wish someone would just come in and help him. The world is very dangerous for a child and you root for T.J. and hope he overcomes all the troubles he faces.
All in all, Hesher is a great film that is at the same time both hilarious and moving.
P.S. Best soundtrack ever. 80's Metallica throughout. Battery, Jump in The Fire, Motorbreath, etc.
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