The opening scene of Hesher immediately has you asking questions, a kid on his bicycle, chasing a car that is being towed away. Is that a young Hesher? Why is he chasing the car? Is this movie even about what I think it is? Well, yes and no, it’s not about what you think, in fact the brilliance in Hesher lies in that it is not necessarily “about” anything. This is a reality, with a slight filter of misfortune or anguish. Why Hesher earned only limited release in the U.S. and a mere 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. I instantly feel that this is a misunderstood movie, and want to jump to it’s defense much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character does for T.J., the young boy in the film, a classic victim of bullying played by Devin Brochu. (In The Valley Of Elah, Rubber)
Brochu is the main character here, not Levitt and not Natalie Portman. This bewildered kid is the focal point with a blanket of amazing performances surrounding him such as an unrecognizable Rainn Wilson as T.J.’s dad and a disengaged Piper Laurie (Carrie) as his grandmother. Hesher, last name or first we’ll never know, is introduced to T.J. in a fluke occurrence. Joseph Gordon-Levitt literally explodes onto the screen in a ball of fire, dust, skin and hair. He is much like a slightly more complex Beavis & Butthead character, he has that brown mane flowing down his backbone, is almost always void of shirt, drives a junker van with metal blaring out of it to the high heavens. (Or depths of hell)
After running into this anorexic-looking larger-than-life human wrecking ball of a personality, T.J. begins seeing Hesher around, in random places including outside his school sniffing glue. It is almost as if the character is imaginary, since he has no connection to anything in T.J.’s life. That is, until he moves into his house with him at first to “do laundry,” where hilarity ensures. The careless, withdrawn father character (Wilson) who recently lost his wife to a car crash, comes home to find a strange toothpick of a Jesus-looking man sitting on his sofa in his not-so tighty whities.
The funny thing about this movie, and yes I consider Hesher to be a comedy/drama with the word comedy strongly first, is that all the characters besides T.J. are detached and care little about anything. Rainn Wilson’s character barely minds the grown man-child intruding in his home. The whole ambiance is very Napoleon Dynamite though Hesher’s protagonist and perhaps the whole cast is more down the earth than the Napolean Dynamite character.
The young boy character meets Portman, in one of her last movie roles along with Thor for awhile, as he did Levitt, by chance. Nicole (Portman) comes to his rescue after the bully character (Brendan Hill) pursues T.J. in his douchebag yellow sports car, that has just been hilariously drawn on. An equally skinny, glasses-wearing curly-haired Portman rushes to the bully, fists up. A silent Brochu is then given a ride by the scrawny Portman character who tells him nonchalantly,
“So I guess I’m kind of a hero now huh? Well actually I basically just didn’t want to have to go home and then feel bad the rest of the day for not helping you, then hear about you on the news getting beat to death in the parking lot, so I really just did it for myself cause I’m selfish, sorry, sorry I’m like that.”
The sentence is of course oozing with sarcasm, as is the whole film.
The first time Hesher meets the grandmother character, he responds simply with a few words, “Hey, old lady,” as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Later he convinces her to smoke from a bong, in what I consider to be the most memorable scene in the whole movie, besides the early part where the Motorhead-loving destructive force of nature climbs up a telephone to illegally aquire porn channels for T.J.’s father’s house.
There are of course a few conflicts within this movie, disagreement between characters, a fairly anti-climatic ending. Just the way I like it. If you want to laugh, I suggesting getting your hands on a copy of Hesher. Spencer Susser does a great job directing his first full-length film, AND lastly, don’t believe any negative rhetoric about this movie.