Rudie Review’s Spencer Susser’s Hesher [Sundance 2010 Film Review]

One of the reasons why I chose to screen Happythankyoupleasemore was so I can ensure myself a seat to see Hesher.   Both movies were playing in the same theater, with Hesher playing after-wards.   Hesher was one of the most anticipated movies premiering at Sundance.   Again, every line and every blogger I ran into were talking about this movie.   What is the odd name?   Was it Joseph Gordon-Levitt?   Or was it Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s oddly homoerotic tattoos?   Well, regardless, the Hesher screening filled up pretty quickly and was completely packed.   Even an appearance of The Treatment’s Elvis Mitchell stirred the excited audience into a frenzy.

When the lights dimmed and the opening title sequence of just the name of the movie in white lettering behind a black screen with an audible heavy metal guitar riff pronouncing itself, “I am here motherfucker!”, got a gleeful laugh from the audience.   I, myself, was convinced I was in for something special.   Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The story is simple, a boy named T.J. and his father (Rainn Wilson) copes with the loss of their mother and wife.   Their lives are turned upside down when Hesher invades their home.   Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the title role of Hesher, a shirtless heavy metal, nihilistic, slacker with long greasy hair and homemade ridiculous tattoos.   The movie is tonally consistent but not thematically consistent.   The movie lingers between T.J. and his father at odds, both trying to grieve their lose.   T.J.’s life is of a high school student that horribly gets picked on time after time and his father is one of a shiftless lay about who watches too much TV and is addicted to prescription pills.   Hesher’s involvement with their lives was just to push the two into a resolution.   The father and son relationship was the most interesting to me.   But ultimately wasted because the focus of the film is Hesher.   Natalie Portman plays Nicole, T.J.s love interest.   She is completely wasted in this movie, both in performance and charcter.   When will people learn, throwing glasses on a person does not make them unattractive and awkward.

Hesher is rude, crude, oddly funny and at times, mindless.   The balance of sentiment and brutish behavior is done well until the last act where it all falls apart.   To me, the film doesn’t know what it wants to be and in the end it turns into a typical quirky indie film, complete with slow motion to increase the sentiment of its pursuit.   Hesher falls short of something special.   Maybe I should’ve caught A Prophet with Travis instead.

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