Hesher - 3 out of 5
If you haven't seen the hype-inducing trailer for Hesher, check it out...I'll wait...
The beginning of the trailer alone makes the film look awesome--and not just because we have Metallica's "Battery" rocking. The trailer teases us with the possibility of a unique, dark comedy about some mysterious man named Hesher. Even though the 2nd half of the trailer hints that the film will enter cliche territory as it appears to be a carbon copy of hundreds of other indie films that have been produced (and will continue to be produced) that focuses entirely on the bleak nature of the world and the story is doused in depressed characters who are unsure about their futures, loathing their past and disappointed with their present. You're guaranteed to see this same formula in 90% of all the indie films out there but rocking Metallica made me think that the film would be a send up of this tired, played out film genre.
Too bad it wasn't.
How can a movie that provides Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his underpants NOT be hilarious?!?
Hesher is about a small family that suffered the lost of the matriarch. The father (played by Rainn Wilson) enters a completely numb state over the loss of his wife, totally incapable of doing not much other than sitting and barely registering the TV. T.J., the son (played by Devin Brochu) mirrors his father's depression and, when acting out over his rage, he meets a long haired squatter named Hesher. This mysterious man starts to force himself into T.J.'s life, interfering in such things as his problems with a bully, a girl he has a crush on (played by Natalie Portman) and his overall problem with dealing with the death of his mother. Hesher makes himself comfortable in the family's home and starts to help them...in odd ways that, on the surface, appear to be more like he's doing harm rather than providing assistance.
"What do you mean I don't look like I'm 21?"
This story feels like it's loaded with potential and...it is. The problem is that all the cliches that plague a indie film (the overly depressed characters who hate life and dragging story) are all here. The beginning of the trailer made me think that the film would have dashed out of the cookie cutter that is the indie film but instead, the film settles nicely within those confines and the only thing it dares venture away from with it is the soundtrack. If you've seen even one of those boring, depressed indie films, you know the soundtrack consists of indie rock artists who are just as bad as the film itself. Shit you would expect to hear on Zach Braff's iPod. But loading the soundtrack with Metallica and Motorhead isn't enough to deliver what I had hoped Hesher would bring.
"This is my serious face."
The film is just good enough to give it a shot but it really feels like so much more could have been done. The film offers up some great humorous scenes but as the drama takes over the film, the comedy seen within the drama earlier in the movie is completely lost and you find yourself submerged in familiar indie film territory. All amusing scenes are replaced by people yelling at each other and crying--normally this wouldn't be a complaint because this is expected in a drama but when each scene starts and ends with it, you start to drown in the salty tears.
Natalie Portman preparing to fight off rabid Star Wars fans. Sadly, this is a daily occurrence for her.
The film even delivers some amazing performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt destroys as the metalhead Hesher and a special mention has to be made for Rainn Wilson as the dad. His performance as the grief-ridden father is so amazing that you completely forget he's been beating a dead horse and playing Dwight in every movie he's been in since The Office was created. The boy who plays T.J. (Devin Brochu) is...passable. He's not terrible but he doesn't bring much to the role. Normally, this could be a really bad thing because on paper, the character of T.J. seems to be the center character. Natalie Portman's character also feels tagged on and her performance doesn't really bring much to the screen or story. However, with Gordon-Levitt and Wilson delivering like bosses, it's easy to overlook these complaints.
In the end, Hesher was not was I thought it would be. The script feels like it's confused on who they want the film to center around and it's even more confused on whether it's going to be a dark comedy or a drama. Despite these complaints, Hesher isn't a terrible film. It's nice to check out once, enjoy the soundtrack and some of the characters, get the few laughs the film gives you and call it a night. There was clear and cut potential that was never truly grasped upon in Hesher but what we do get is just good enough to check out.