HESHER is a difficult movie to categorize. The film, from first time feature Director and co-writer Spencer Susser, presents a distinctly different world than our own. In simple terms, this is a story about loss and coping with loss. But the way it tackles these themes is different from other films. From the classic metal soundtrack to the slightly-off look of the world, HESHER opens as a kind of twisted fable.
HESHER is the story of TJ Forney, played with amazing talent by the young Devin Brochu. TJ is a pre-teen(? teenager?) who recently lost his mother in a car accident. He and his father have not dealt with this loss in a meaningful way. TJ has formed an unnatural connection to the family car; totaled and sitting in the driveway since the accident claimed his mother’s life. His father Paul, played with somber realism by Rainn Wilson (THE OFFICE, SUPER), has essentially become catatonic through depression and medication. They live with Paul’s mother (who’s keeping them going) and they are basically just coasting through life waiting for the next shoe to drop.
We join the family as they are finally starting to hit rock bottom. Paul’s mother (played with quiet majesty by Piper Laurie from the golden age of cinema) is starting to slow down. She may be fighting dementia, and isn’t able to take care of her boys the way she could in the past. Paul isn’t working (and, in fact, is barely moving). TJ is starting to have issues at school and with a bully. Enter Hesher: metalhead vagabond/philosopher/anarchist. TJ and Hesher become acquainted through a strange bit of happenstance. There are some houses nearby that are under construction – and in a play for attention (or out of frustration with his life) TJ throws a rock and breaks a window. Suddenly an older teen is upon him pulling him into the house. Long, greasy hair and no shirt, a middle finger tattoo on his back and scruffy beard. It’s clear from the start Hesher doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.
Thanks to the attention called by the broken window, Hesher can no longer squat in the house, so he follows TJ home from school. Suddenly he is inside TJ’s house stripping down to his underwear and washing his clothes. Hesher doesn’t care that this is not normal behavior, and soon he’s living in the garage. Paul barely notices, TJ is terrified (but in awe of Hesher’s apparent freedom), and Paul’s mom is actually becoming friends with this squatter-savant.
This is where the movie gets it legs, but it takes a bit and isn’t done in a solid way. TJ falls for an older girl played by Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN; also acts as producer on the film) who saves him from the bully. Soon they’re both getting a taste of Hesher’s viewpoint on life and social interaction. Essentially, he walks and says exactly what he’s thinking. He doesn’t hide anything and uses strange (and somewhat perverted) proverbs to explain his views. What makes this interesting? In some ways, Hesher is an attractive character: he doesn’t believe in doing things by anyone’s rules but his own; he is sure of himself and of his beliefs; and he doesn’t question things that happen; he just does what is needed to move on to the next step. In this way, Hesher becomes a beacon for all of these people during dark times in their lives. He represents something that they (and we) can never really be.
HESHER is a good idea that’s executed fairly well. None of it would work without the charisma of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (INCEPTION). The title character of any film (that has one) is a tenuous position. The character has to be written and presented in the film in a way that merits the name… here they get it half right. Gordon-Levitt is strong, but the writing is missing something. Regardless, he plays the part with the heart of gold it needs, and it almost succeeds. As it is, I think this is the type of movie that you’ll either really like or really hate… but it will definitely keep you watching.
Video: (1080p, 2.44:1 Widescreen) The picture is decent. The colors are de-saturated for most of the movie. The video, as a whole, feels like it is slightly over-processed and pulls some of the life out of the shots – this may have been intentional but it feels sloppy.
Audio: (English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound works well for most of the movie. The levels are nice and, given that a lot of the dialogue is mumbled, it works.
Behind the Scenes (07:11) An interesting behind the scenes look – this featurette made me like the movie more because I think I finally understand what they were TRYING to do.
Outtakes (28:33) A decent gag reel for about 2 minutes, this is about as over-indulgent as a special feature can get. You do get to see just how meticulous the Director was about details (adjusting sleeves, positioning furniture) and a couple of funny moments.
Deleted Scenes (06:55) A couple of scenes, mostly extended versions of scenes that made the movie. They work better as they were cut for the final movie.
HESHER Sketch Gallery A 33 image gallery of pencil or pen sketches that were created for the movie. Most images not appropriate for children.
Air Traffic (02:09) A collection of all the times they had to stop shooting one day because of the airplanes flying by. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would have been.
The Theatrical Trailer for the movie is also included.