Saturday, September 24, 2011

“So you lost your wife, and you lost your mom. I lost my nut.”

Film: Hesher
Year: 2010
Director: Spencer Susser
Written by: Spencer Susser and David Michôd.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch, Frank Collison.
Running time: 106 min.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was once a child star. As Hollywood seems to go, these child stars usually end up being wayward adults who end up doing community service coz of some bad thing they did. But Joseph Gordon-Levitt? That's not him. He did his dash as a child/teen actor, went and got a good education, and then came back to star in small independent films. In 2009, along came (500) Days of Summer, an indie rom-com that was adored by many, and suddenly Joe was a hot ticket in Hollywood. While he was running around hallways in Inception and has been roped in by Chris Nolan again for The Dark Knight Rises, Joe has still found time among his life as a formidable leading man to star in a little independent film called Hesher. With Hesher, Joe plays the titular character, but this isn't the sweet, lovable Joe that we all know. This is a version of Joe that doesn't often wear a top, showing off his home-made tattoos, with long unruly hair that probably has more grease in it than a fish and chip shop, and a smoke constantly hanging out of his mouth.

Hesher's personality is just as vulgar as his look. He literally just turns up everywhere, and often has an offensive metaphorical story to tell. Young T.J (Devin Brochu), who is bullied and has recently lost his mother, happens to come across Hesher. After this odd meeting which has some cops involved, Hesher vandalises one of T.J's tormentor's car, and then decides to make himself at home with T.J. From then on, Hesher surprisingly follows T.J everywhere, from when T.J is spying on dorky grocery clerk Nicole (Natalie Portman) to when T.J is forced to eat the urinal cake by his big bully. While Hesher seems to enjoy embarrassing T.J and burning shit to the ground for no particular reason, the guy seems to have a bit of a connection with everyone, even T.J's depressed father Paul (Rainn Wilson) and his absent-minded elderly grandmother Madeleine (Piper Laurie).

When I say that Hesher seems to have a 'connection' with everyone, this doesn't mean that the film turns into a happy film that has love bursting out of it. The final act does get down to the really heart-warming stuff, but the film never loses its vulgar and offensive sense of humour. Hesher always has a story to tell, and usually the story isn't G-rated. These stories usually come up at the most inappropriate of times, which is why Hesher is quite a hilarious movie, in a weird way. At its core, the movie is a lovely character study which doesn't really have a plot, per se. It's just got a lot of people getting up and moving on with their lives that have obviously been on standby for quite some time. All with the help of an unlikely hero simply known as Hesher.

What's best is that we never really know just who Hesher is, but he certainly is a different kind of character.  He may annoy the hell out of the people he is around, but they all kinda love him in their different ways. Without Hesher, their lives would still be in a state of depression. With Hesher, they feel kinda scared of how rash he is. Hesher He turns up when he's most needed and does nothing. The only way he can show his true emotions is by either burning stuff or vandalising property. We know that he isn't necessarily a good person. We know that he isn't necessarily a bad person. We just know that he exists, and he brings a welcome to change to each characters lives. The script by director Spencer Susser and writer/director of the excellent Animal Kingdom David Michôd doesn't glorify it's hero in any way. It just delivers a beautiful look at the change in characters, without a clear narrative - and that's no problem.

An element that makes Hesher work even more is the work by every single one of the actors. Devin Brochu delivers a heartfelt performance far beyond his years, putting most of his fellow child actors to shame. I really hope that we get to see more of the guy, because he sure has a lot of talent. Rainn Wilson tones down the usual funny to play the part of a depressed dad perfectly. Natalie Portman gives yet another charming performance, and I particularly connected with her when she has a mini breakdown in her car asking why all of these bad things have to happen to her. She was so adorable, like always. Piper Laurie, who I'll always remember playing the evil mother in Carrie, was lovely in the elderly sort of way. But of course, as most of the film belongs to the character of Hesher, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a performance which makes sure that Hesher's message really gets across. He's practically unrecognisable, yet he still has the same commanding presence that he has in all of his films. We all know that Joe has a particularly impressive filmography, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that Hesher is probably one of my favourite films of his. Even if he isn't looking supremely dapper as he does in a vest.

What I got:


  1. Great review! Totally agree with you. Joesph Gordon-Levitt put in a solid performance.

  2. wow...good review! i really didn't feel connected to this like you did.

  3. You reminded me that I have to review it as well. Shoot, when can I do it?.. Anyway, I loved this film, I thought it was very original. And that's indeed a side of JGL that we haven't seen, although he has some other like not a totally good guy parts.

  4. Well written review Stevee. I might give this a try after all. I always liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt so this might be better than I expected.

  5. Ty - Joe always puts in a solid performance, but he does particularly well here! Thanks!

    Candice - Thanks! And that is okay.

    Lesya - Whenever you can! I'd love to see your review on it. Joe has done lots of different things in his career, but this has to be the most out there!

    Castor - If you like Joe, then there's at least a 50% chance you might like this.

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