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MOVIE REVIEW: Hesher

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, Natalie Portman

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher in "Hesher."
  • (L-R) Rainn Wilson as Paul Forney and Devin Brochu as T.J. in "Hesher."
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher in "Hesher."
  • Natalie Portman as Nicole in "Hesher."
  • Devin Brochu as T.J. and Natalie Portman as Nicole in "Hesher."
  • Natalie Portman as Nicole and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher in "Hesher."
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I wanted to like Hesher. It started out so promising, had a great cast, but halfway through I realized it was just indie garbage.

It’s the first film for director Spencer Susser and it’s a decent enough premise. Rainn Wilson plays a grieving husband that’s lost his wife in a car accident. He spends most of the movie hopped up on meds (and looking like Zach Galifianakis with the beard). His son is grieving, too. And he hates the fact that the damaged car his mom was driving is staying at the tow yard. He’s also bullied in school, and has the bad luck of running into a heavy metal loving squatter – played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The family has the grandmother living with them, played by acting legend Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Children of a Lesser God, Carrie). Natalie Portman may have been miscast as a mousy girl with low self-esteem, but it’s fun to see her play something different. You can put her in frumpy cloths and big glasses, and she’s still kind of cute.

This movie will probably get buzz with the cast, and lots of Metallica and Motorhead to attract the headbangers, yet a brilliant movie like Gordon-Levitt’s The Lookout went unseen. It was one of my favorites of 2007 (he plays a hockey player that’s slow after an injury; Jeff Daniels plays a blind man that befriends him).

For the first half of this movie, I didn’t think Hesher was even real. I thought he was the alter-ego of the grieving boy or an imaginary playmate. A few critics I’ve talked to think that’s the case, yet the film never did anything to show us that. I was told the director wanted people to wonder if Hesher was real or not. Uh, okay.

We’re presented with it as if this is a real person. And when you have various characters interacting with him, we have no choice but to believe he’s real. Hesher is such a sociopath, that it’s hard to enjoy the ride.

He has very few redeeming qualities, and you wonder why the cops aren’t showing up at most of what he’s doing; or why Wilson would tolerate him in his house (no matter how doped up he is on anti-depressants). When he defends Portman after she’s in a car accident, or shares bong hits with the grandmother and talks about walking with her... you wonder why there wasn’t more of that.

When Hesher climbs up a telephone poll in his tighty-whities in a quest to get porn channels, or he’s throwing stuff into a swimming pool while shouting dialogue from the trash compactor scene in Star Wars – we can’t help but smile at the visuals. Beavis & Butthead was funny because fun predicaments were written for them. In this, we’re just watching a guy do a crazy stuff and saying obnoxious things.

There was a dream sequence at a wrecking yard that was edited very nicely (and reminded me of a scene in The Lookout). I thought the sentimental ending would’ve been great had we liked Hesher a bit more. The closing credits were cute, having illustrations that looked like a stoners notebook from high school.

It squeaks out a D+.