(2010 – Director: Spencer Susser Cast: Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Hesher is a crude, disgusting, and volatile movie. But underneath all the vulgar language and content is a story about overcoming heartbreak and learning how to move on.
You need to be patient with this film. It starts out with TJ, a young boy, learning to deal with the recent loss of his mother while dealing with his depressed dad, and bullies at school. TJ’s rebellion leads him to Hesher, a strung out, long-haired, van driving, violent guy with no rules. TJ starts to encounter Hesher in his life when he needs someone the most. Eventually Hesher turns squatter and makes TJ’s house his own, knowing that TJ’s dad and grandmother won’t and can’t do anything to stop him.
So why this Hesher character? The movie could stand alone without him. Or maybe have Hesher as a minor character? But to have this ridiculous, over-the-top person in almost every scene started to seem too much to handle. It’s not until much later in the movie did I realize how much of a guardian angel Hesher really became for TJ. Except instead of helping him directly, he made TJ’s life as miserable as possible. Although Hesher doesn’t help TJ’s outside life (making his rivalry with the bully even worse, ruining his love of Natalie Portman’s character) Hesher comes to see TJ’s struggle that he can’t see himself, his Grandmother’s feelings. Sometimes it takes an ass kicking from a random person to make you see what’s right in front of your face. TJ and his Dad were completely unaware of Grandma’s needs and failing to realize how much she loved each of them.
So why does Hesher care at all about Grandma? I think it had something to do her treating him like he belonged. She passed no judgement on him even when he deserved to be scolded for his language or actions. She is ultimately the reason he sticks around. Once Hesher got over the initial torturing of TJ, his character would have just moved on, but he was needed, and that’s not something he’s used to. That’s also why he was attracted to Natalie Portman’s character. Unlike Hesher, TJ didn’t need just anyone’s love or attention, he needed his Dad’s.
In good writing form, everything was leading up to Hesher getting in a fight with TJ and his Dad. But what happens afterwards was equally unexpected and made complete sense. Hesher breaking into Grandma’s funeral enlightened all three that it’s time to move on. It’s time to properly mourn and to love what you have left in your life.
It’s obvious that Hesher is the most confusing and intriguing character of this movie and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a fantastic job, but I think Devin Brochu deserves plenty of recognition for his portrayal of TJ, along with Rainn Wilson, Natalie Portman, and Piper Laurie. The cast is really what took this story from gimmicky to captivating.
There were times when this film’s language and content disgusted me and that’s probably the main reason why I didn’t love this movie. I understand the shock value involved with Hesher’s character, but I felt most of his crude lines were repetitive and served no purpose.
Hesher really sets director/writer Spencer Susser up to do a lot more movies. His directorial style and ability to cast well and generate raw moments shows that he has what it takes to be a great independent filmmaker and I look forward to any future projects he’s involved with.