Hesher is a phenomenal film that is darkly funny, daring, and unique. I have never seen anything quite like this movie. It is the reason I love independent movies because it couldn’t been made otherwise.
Hesher has balls and a distinct sense of self. Joseph Gordon-Levitt transforms himself in this movie to play the titular character, Hesher. With dirty long locks and scruffy facial hair, Joseph Gordon-Levitt embodies a carefree, anarchist spirit who enjoys rolling around in the gutter. Hesher has a badass black van that he basically lives out of while galavanting around town looking for ladies and trouble.
But before you even meet Hesher, your heart is broken and trampled on when you’re introduced to T.J.—a young kid who is reeling after the devastating death of his mother. Devin Brochu plays T.J., and the incredible performance of this 13-year old kid is the emotional core of this movie. You truly, deeply feel his loss. Early in the movie, T.J. is obsessed with the car his mother died in and he even tracks it down at a junkyard when it’s towed from his house. His father, Paul (played by Rainn Wilson), is mired in his own depression and self-pity. Instead of being there for his son, Paul tries to swallow his pain by taking pills—often falling asleep on the couch in his filthy clothes. T.J.’s grandmother Madeleine (played by Piper Laurie) is the only stable adult presence in his life, but she can only do so much.
T.J.’s sole refuge is inside that car with the memories of his mother.
Whatever the cost, T.J. just wants to get that car back and gain some semblance of his old life.
While simple, this story is heart-wrenching. All you want to do is reach out and give everyone a hug.
Don’t expect Hesher to give him a hug. If anything, Hesher’s presence makes T.J.’s life more chaotic. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher is one of the most memorable movie characters. I cannot imagine any other actor pulling off this performance. Hesher lives to party and rage. Calling him unpredictable is an understatement. But Hesher is a shot of life when T.J. desperately needs something, someone.
Surprisingly, Natalie Portman plays third (or possibly even fourth banana) in this movie as Nicole—a homely young grocery store clerk that stops the school bully from bashing T.J.’s head into the pavement after he vandalizes the bully’s car. Her character didn’t need to be great, but Natalie Portman brought a certain credibility to the movie that you can’t buy. Piper Laurie is another great actress as the grandmother who rounds out a great supporting cast that bring elements of comedy and drama to this wonderful story.
The best compliment I can pay to a movie is to say that I wish I wrote it. I wish I wrote Hesher.
While Hesher is well-written, the actors and actresses make these characters come to life.
Hesher is not your standard, cookie-cutter movie. The beginning is a slow burn that builds to a faster pace once Hesher is introduced. You have no idea what to expect from Hesher. It is riveting.
For fuck sakes, Hesher has a giant middle finger tattooed on his back and a stick figure blowing his brains out tattooed on his chest. When Hesher follows T.J. and decides to crash at his house, T.J. puts up a mild opposition and Hesher asks him if he’s ever been skull-fucked. Although he’s completely intimidating when he threatens T.J. and has his hand around his neck, Hesher is then in his underwear smoking a cigarette on the couch while watching TV a moment later. Hesher doesn’t give a fuck.
In a time when most movies meld together in a bland, colorless line of shit, Hesher stands out. It’s not just all attitude and balls. To Hesher’s credit, this movie is as emotional as another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie, 50/50 about a writer with cancer—which is also phenomenal in a much different way.
I don’t think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets proper credit for such fantastic acting range. His body of work is impressive and growing. While most still probably remember him as Tommy from the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has seamlessly transitioned from child actor to accomplished adult movie star. I will continue to watch anything he is in because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of our finest actors, and he deserves more appreciation and adulation. As a creative spirit that thrives to empower and connect other artists together, we need more genuinely good human beings like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Jump off the deep end with Hesher and enjoy this off-kilter dark comedy.