Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu
I have said it before, but I really do love unconventional films. Hesher is one such example, taking the now familiar “family dealing with tragedy learn to move on with the help of a stranger” (or FDWTLTMOWTHOAS for short) story but using a dangerous, unstable character to do so.
The film follows TJ (Brochu) shortly after his mother has died in a car accident. His father (Wilson) is in full meltdown mode, resorting to anti-depressant tablets to cope, leaving TJ to almost fend for himself, with only the help of his frail and fragile Grandma (awww, she’s adorable!). Along the way, TJ finds himself the focus of a bully’s attention and becomes infatuated with Nicole (Portman), a store clerk who saves him from said bully.
Things aren’t going well for TJ…..enter Hesher (JGL), a metal-head squatter who befriends TJ and moves into his home (without permission, I might add). What ensues is 90 minutes of TJ continuing to struggle, with next to no help from Hesher, who even hinders him at times, although through his new companion’s don’t-give-an-F attitude, he learns to deal with his emotions and rebuild his family.
I am a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He seems to have such a varied array of acting skills, and I can’t say that he could ever get type-cast. His performance in Hesher is a perfect example of what I mean. Whilst the character is somewhat flawed, and at times may not seem authentic, you can’t question JGL’s portrayal of the unhinged rocker. And I dare you to find something in his portfolio that is similar, although with the long hair, you could be forgiven for thinking that his character from Third Rock from the Sun grew up a little wrong!
Portman is also stellar, and takes on the enforced mother role beautifully. Her love for TJ shines through, and she treats him like an adult, being brutally honest with him at all times. My only “criticism” is that I can not buy her as the dowdy “nobody loves me” type of character. I have seen her in Closer, it just doesn’t wash with me.
Rainn Wilson once again puts in a good shift, in a role nearly as far-removed from his Dwight Schrute as you can get. Again, Wilson is an actor I enjoy watching, and seems to be very comfortable at playing a number of different roles. At times, I honestly felt like I was watching a man who had lost everything and couldn’t see the things he still had.
Newcomer Devin Brochu should also be commended as he handles his part perfectly, struggling with the tragedy of losing his mother at such a young age, the almost abandonment of his father, his innocent love for Nicole and his admiration/fear/confusion of Hesher. Brochu manages to convey all the emotions brilliantly and I can see a strong future for him in Hollywood.
Finally I want to reserve some praise for Spencer Susser who wrote and directed the film. Through his direction and creativity, he serves up something that is not only tragic but has moments of comedy and comfort which is a difficult cocktail to create. In particular the music that accompanies Hesher’s presence on screen in the early part of the film, and his rather bizarre “are they actually true?” metaphor stories (or metaphories, if you will) show how a film can be made unique with only the simplest of additions.
Hesher is definitely a film you have to be in a certain mind to enjoy, however if it is the type of film that flips your switch, then this really is just perfection. Acting, directing, music and story all of the highest standard, and I will definitely add this to my collection in due course.
Please watch Hesher, I promise you won’t lose a nut!
Rating 4 out of 5