‘Hesher’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 25th, 2011 at 9:25 am,

Hesher Reviews Hesher Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Hesher

If you didn’t read the excerpt above, allow me to reiterate: Hesher is absolutely, positively, NOT a movie for everyone. It’s not a movie that a lot of people will likely enjoy. In fact, it’s probably a movie that only a very, very, specific type of audience would enjoy – similar to the love of heavy metal music implied in the title and embodied by the titular character.

That said, as far as its merits as movie go, Hesher is a film that tries a unique approach to a topic that has been all but strip mined in cinema (coping with grief), and the results are mixed, at best.

The story follows a young boy named T.J. (Devin Brochu) who has recently lost his mother in a tragic automobile accident. His father (Rainn Wilson of The Office) has been paralyzed with grief, while his grandmother (iconic actress Piper Laurie) is simply too old and feeble to manage a household and care for a grown man and young boy.

With no parent to supervise and/or comfort him, T.J. begins to go down a dark path as he is swallowed by his own grief: he constantly visits a scrapyard to sit in the wrecked car in which his mother perished; he skips school (and the bullies therein) to roam around town on his bike; stalks the mousey cashier at his local grocery store (Natalie Portman) with adolescent curiosity; and eventually moves to trespassing onto a construction site to break windows in a half-built house.

Unfortunately for T.J., (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the half-built house he stones is also the temporary dwelling of “Hesher” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a burnout metal-head complete with a rusted van as his trusty steed. Hesher takes none too kindly to T.J. attracting the local authorities with his stone-throwing tantrum; the gnarly burnout shows up on T.J.’s grandma’s doorstep claiming squatter’s rights, threatening T.J.’s family if the young boy doesn’t play along. Dad is too depressed to care about anything, while grandma is just happy to have anybody who isn’t an emotional zombie around. And so, T.J. is stuck with Hesher as a quasi-roommate, quasi-friend, quasi-jerk older brother and, somehow, a quasi-grief counselor and life coach.

Rainn Wilson and Devin Brochu in Hesher Hesher Review

Rainn Wilson and Devin Brochu in 'Hesher'.

Hesher marks the feature film debut of Spencer Susser, who co-wrote the script with rising star David Michod, the mind behind the screenplay of last year’s Oscar-nominated film, Animal Kingdom. The story was conceived by newcomer Brian Charles Frank, and it’s clear what the intention was: to explore the nature of grief (a cliched theme in cinema) via a character (Hesher) who can seemingly head-bang his way through all the tragedy life throws his way.

It’s an interesting premise that has one major flaw: A character who’s impervious to life’s hang-ups is also one that by nature must be extremely callous, selfish, crude, unreliable and somewhat juvenile – and Hesher is definitely all of those things. This is where the movie will inevitably divert a certain (read: high) percentage of viewers: like the music he embodies, Hesher is simply too extreme for some people to stomach – especially when he’s being juxtaposed to a young boy.

On the other hand, Gordon-Levitt’s talent as an actor makes Hesher a throughly engaging character to study and watch, if not sympathize with or relate to. He comes and goes throughout the film like a reoccurring thought in the mind (insert Inception joke), and when he’s onscreen the movie is manic, lively, interesting, and somewhat thrilling in its unpredictability. When Hesher is not onscreen, however, the film is somewhat lifeless, meandering, and at times, crushingly boring. A double-edged sword if ever there was any.

While young Devin Brochu carries the weight of his leading role well, it’s the supporting cast that most people will be interested in. Here, the famous faces are all strangely playing against their usual “type”: Rainn Wilson (known for his eccentric personality) is dull and vacant; Portman (known for her looks and melodramatic emoting) is reserve, mousy and as plain as a beautiful actress can look in a pair of oversized Clark Kent glasses. Piper Laurie totally plays against her own legendary portrayal of a psycho mama in the movie Carrie, by playing a quiet and overly passive matriarch who lets just about anything – and I do mean anything – go in her household.

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Natalie Portman in Hesher Hesher Review

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Natalie Portman in 'Hesher'.

Though a lot of the time Hesher feels as aimless, tiresome and unmotivated as, well, an actual hesher, there are some standout moments in the film. All these great moments come solely from Gordon-Levitt, whenever his raucous character attempts to deliver some twisted sage advice to young T.J. about the nature of life. One speech – in which Hesher states his views on happiness via a story about a threesome he once had – is something I don’t think I will ever forget. It’s a strange thing to call an achievement – but then, this is a strange film.

The ending is equally as weird, and consists of an epic Hesher-brand monologue delivered in front of a shocked audience at a funeral. Let’s just say there’s vomit involved. Overall, though, the film is a very strange and twisted journey,  though Susser and Co. do manage to bring the characters around to a logical and fitting place, via the wild and crazy character who is (literally) the push they need to escape the jaws of grief.

Again, like heavy metal music itself this is not a film that will appeal to many, but those who love it, will likely love it fiercely.

Hesher is currently playing in limited theatrical release.

If you want to know more about the film, have a look at the trailer for Hesher below:

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

TAGS: Hesher
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  1. Little sad it’s only a 2.5 but I didn’t read the review yet. Still wanna see this. (Never read a review when i havent seen the film. Probably wait for DVD now though :-\

  2. Looks like something I would totally enjoy.

  3. Kofi, can you give an example of a scene in the film that some of us may not be able to stomach?

  4. i’m a big fan of JGL and Natalie Portman so i definitely want to see it. And the trailer looks alright.

    but it’s not playing anywhere near me. (sad face)

  5. Honestly this film looks fantastic to me and JGL is such a great actor. Been anticipating this film especially knowing that Metallica enjoyed it so much they actually let someone use their music. The reviews seem to be very mixed you either love it or hate it and there is very few middle ground reviews. I expect to be on the love it side of things. Hope I get to see it soon if only Gas wasn’t so expensive lately costs me more to drive to the nearest theaters now than it does to buy movie tickets.

  6. Yeah I was wondering how this movie would be. I was hoping it would be good. But in my honest opinion, the trailer was really bad. That says nothing of the quality of the movie, but I just thought it was a really bad trailer that didn’t give you any semblance of what the movie was about. Looked like they wanted an excuse to use puppets-era Metallica in a trailer while showing JGL just being crazy. So I thought the trailer was bad.

    Though I have also been hoping that the film itself would be good. I’ll look at some reviews elsewhere as well, to see others’ reactions to it.

  7. this looks like a love letter wrote specifically for me I’M PUMPED!

  8. This looks like a movie I would enjoy.

  9. I saw this movie at the Florida Film Festival and LOVED it. I’d give it a 4.5/5 myself.

  10. Hey Kofi,

    I liked the yin and yang of your review although I haven’t seen Hesher. Funny enough, I just watched a trailer for “The Future” which seems extremely quirky and possibly disturbing (just what I like). “The Future” may also fit the conclusion of your “Hesher” review: “not a film that will appeal to many, but those who love it, will likely love it fiercely.”

    Hooray for (some small niche in) Hollywood.

  11. I just saw this movie yesterday and it blew me away. JGL deserves his acting props because he’s no longer just the ‘little boy from Third Rock’. He embodied this twisted character brilliantly. No, this movie isn’t for everyone, but nor is it just for 14yr old pimply white boys who love Metallica. I’m a 40+ yr old woman of color and this movie rocked my world, so I’m curious as to what “very, very specific type of audience” member I am?! Go see this movie; it’s sick and twisted and darn good.

    • Thanks L-Boogie – Hope I didn’t come off as saying “This film is only for your stereotypical metal-head” – I only meant that like the genre of heavy metal music this film will attract a smaller, but very dedicated crowd of admirers. :-)

      • Kofi, thanks to L-Boogie and to you for clearing up that this isn’t just for metalheads. Props to you as well for writing a review and stating your opinions. I am so shy about mine, but bro, I have a minor issue with your review that immediately put me off to it. Your synopsis was a little out of order, I almost thought for a second you hadn’t even watched this movie? But I am also extremely biased cause I bawled my eyes out when watching this. One of those epic cries where I can hardly breath, and then something funny happens and I chuckle/choke on my own tears. I guess all I want to say is get your story line right, and I totally disagree with you about the star rating. I would give it a 5/5. Disclaimer: I am definitely one of those people that really enjoys weird movies.

        thanks for your review though! I hope i didnt come off as a b.

  12. “Again, like heavy metal music itself this is not a film that will appeal to many”

    I don’t know what kind of music you listen to but metal is universal, watch Heavy Metal in bagdhad or Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey or any other metal doc. Metal appeals across the board nub. Unlike disposable pop music, metal fans are for life and diehard. Iron Maiden sells out around the world wherever they play. I watched this film and it’s good, unlike your review.

  13. Been looking forward to this for a long time as a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and a total metalhead!) Not sure it’s worth a trip to London for though. (My local cinema has 12 screens but is currently devoting 6 to Harry Potter and 4 to Transformers :/. Still, at least they found room for Tree of Life)

  14. This post may be a little late, but I just saw the film a few days ago and thought I’d give my 5 cents.
    First off, I thought the movie deserved at least a 3, and maybe an exstra ½ for effort. I love movies where you land smack dab in the middle of a story, not know much, and just hanging on for the ride. The opening scene where T.J. chases the tow truck on his bike, had me snagged from the getgo. His character was so believable. It wasn’t over or under acted, but just acted as a 13′ish old boy would be. Hesher, though quite good, wasn’t really as engaging. I’ll admit, JGL nailed the Keanu Reaves “hangtime attitude”, but his monologues were way off at times. Whether it was him, the script or the direction, or a combo of the three, I’m not sure. At times when I was really immersed in the film,but his monologues just threw me right back out again and I thought, “That was awkward”. Then there’s Natalie, oh Natalie. She could just say “cow” through the whole movie and tears of joy and sadness would come my eyes. Bravo, my sweet! (Sorry about that :P)
    The story was quite good, but mainly because of the Relationship between Hesher and T.J. I could really relate to them. It reminded my of my first babysitter when I was eight years old. He too, was a teenage Ozzy-Iron Maiden loving freak. Sometimes the oddest of relationships emerge, evolve and thrive despite hardships and misunderstandings.

    • You totally got me wrong I loved this move. I’m saying it like visitor Q. watch visitor Q and you will get what I mean…. plus i give this film 10 stars

  15. this move reminded me of visitor Q which also deals with grief. infact its almost exactly the same as visitor q with out the incest and necrophilia.

    Yes I said incest and necrophilia visitor Q is a Korean film go figure..

  16. It is a good one…you never know what direction the story will go in!

  17. This deserves at least 3 1/2 stars. Pretty awesome movie.

  18. Appalling review with little or no real insight into this film. To achieve this, someone has managed to A) not grasp the actual concept of the character Hesher, B) skewed the actual facts in the movie (was a four girls and Hesher in the orgy :), among others things)I am a little embarassed and very surprised at this lack of understanding. One of the best films I have seen in a long time. I do not listen to metal

    • Oh yeah, James. Hesher was just way too smart for me (sarcasm).

      Disagree with my review, fine. Question my intellegence? Please.

  19. i really thought some one was spying on me n made a movie about it!!!!

  20. I enjoyed the movie because it is basically real life situation, from TJ being bullied, loss of a mother and wife, how the father is grieving. The grandmothers sweet sense about holding the family together. This is life, Hesher is what he is, and he doesn’t care who likes it. I found the story to be very well written. I give it a 9 out of 10.

  21. Totally original and loved the movie!! Fabulous acting by all and Grandma was the icing on the cake. (Cool bong scene with Hesher and grandma:) The ending credits are hilarious!! :)

  22. Just watched this film. Loved the metal but it was such a great story. Yah not for everyone but JGL blew me away. Really atypical
    Character for him. LOVED IT

    • It was a movie that was for sure not the faint of heart. But I love JGL and thought I saw all his movies…Well much to my happiness I didn’t. The guy is a fantastic actor no matter what he does, and I can surely see many awards to be won as he lives in his acting.I only hope I am still around to see him win the Academy Award! Great Flick…now of to E-bay to buy it. :)

  23. i absolutly loved this movie everything felt so real about it
    i know what it means to snap and lose hope it hits alot closer to home than some people would realize i would rate it a must watch

  24. Hesher is about a man that chooses to ignore lifes norns something we all like to do at times in our lifes thats what makes this movie so appealing to many the review just missed the boat entirely.