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
All of Hesher's "persona", according to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is inspired by late bass player from Metallica, Cliff Burton. Not only that, but the movie features a significant amount of music from the "Burton" era, including the solo that Hesher plays in the garage (Anesthesia, from the Kill 'Em All album) and, of course, the Hesher lettering. See more »
The cuts on TJ's face from the wrecking yard are on his left side when he falls and leaves, but he has them on his left side and they're already done scabbing and look like scars when Nicole (Natalie Portman) shows up at TJ's house the next day to apologize. See more »
"Life is like walking in the rain... you can hide and take cover or you can just get wet." Rarely in a film do I find a quote within it that perfectly describes the lessons it's trying to portray. In "Hesher", directed by Spencer Susser, this quote resonated with me. It was not until I heard that line that I fully understood what this movie was about. "Hesher" is a great film. One with a lot of heart and some brilliant writing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the outrageous Hesher perfectly and is by far (aside from "Mysterious Skin") his best work to date.
"Hesher" plays out like a weird dream. T.J., impressively played by Devin Brochu, is a young boy struggling with the loss of his mother. He lives with his father Paul and his grandmother. Paul, played by Rain Wilson, has fallen into a deep depression letting go all of his responsibility to his son and his own mother. It's a very tragic situation they are in. In a fit of rage T.J. vandalizes what he thinks is an unoccupied building and as a result is confronted by Hesher, terrifying T.J. in the process. Hesher decides to follow T.J. to his home and lets himself in. T.J. can't do anything about this random person entering the house, doing laundry and generally just making himself at home for fear that Hesher will harm his family. What follows is a plethora of black comedy and heartfelt change within both Hesher and this distraught family.
At it's heart, "Hesher" is a film about not being able to see the things that are right in front of us until an outsider smacks us in the face with reality. This isn't apparent in the beginning of the film, but as Hesher gets to know the family and the situation they are in he goes from "house squatting" to being part of the family. In doing so the family is able to climb out of the rut they are in and fill the void left by the passing of the mother with the idea that life goes on. The film takes a lot of time to get to this realization, but the time spent getting there is great fun to watch.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt impresses me more every time I see him. His portrayal of the careless, fowl mouthed, violent, heavy metal loving outsider that we have all known at some point in our lives is spot on. Levitt seemed to really engulf himself into this role, almost to the point where he wasn't acting and just being himself. Rain Wilson also impressed me. His feature films have generally been him re-hashing his role from "The Office" in various outrageous situations. This time he was genuine and proved to this reviewer that his range goes beyond the weird goofball we are used to seeing. Natalie Portman plays the small role of T.J.'s older love interest. She was good, but her role seemed more like filler than anything else. There is nothing wrong with that, her character just wasn't an important role to the story it seemed.
One of the best aspects of this film was the relationship between Hesher and the grandmother, Madeleine, played by Piper Laurie. Hesher sees how Madeleine is just wandering aimlessly while Paul and T.J. deal with their problems completely ignoring her needs. Hesher, I think finds something that reminds him of his own mother in Madeleine and shares some sweet moments with her. Fortunately for Hesher, the grandmother's age has left her with the ability to completely ignore the fact that Hesher is just a stranger intruding into their lives and ends up treating him like one of her own. This, I think is the turning point for Hesher and we see the change within him.
This film goes much deeper than what is on the surface. Director and writer Spencer Susser did an amazing job with keeping the underlying meanings hidden until the right time for them to come to fruition. Not once was I bored with what was going on and I couldn't wait to see what the next scene had to offer. With this being Susser's first feature film, I am excited to see what he has next in the pipeline. Make no mistake, there is some vial language in this film so it's not for those that will not be able to get past the offensiveness of it all. But as I said, underneath the chain-smoking jerk that is Hesher you will find a kind soul that needed the Forney family just as much as they needed him.
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