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Hesher (2011)

November 3, 2011

4/10 Mötley Crües

It’s like a Dr. Phil episode, if Dr. Phil listened to Slayer.

Hesher is about a little kid whose home life gets turned upside-down when his mom dies in a car crash and his dad spirals into a mean fit of depression. While biking around town one day, the kid throws a rock through the window of an abandoned building, and before he can bike away, a greasy, shirtless, tattooed mystery man drags him inside and gives him the business for trashing the house he was squatting in. One thing leads to another, the house blows up, and because this headbanger now has nowhere to go, he moves into the kid’s house without an invitation and continues to stick around because the kid’s dad is too messed up to do anything about it. Before long, the guy becomes part of the family even though no one asked him to, and through the power of heavy metal mayhem, Hesher somehow helps get these buzzkills back on track.

On the one hand, I like this premise. I don’t know about you guys, but during some of the more angsty periods of my youth, Nine Inch Nails were about the one thing that kept me from driving my fist through the drywall. Just as there’s something very calming about queuing up to Mozart (or Billie Holiday for my listening pleasure) in times of madness, there’s something equally cathartic about turning the volume up to 11 and blowing out your ear drums with the loudest, angriest shit this side of Cannibal Corpse. No, it’s not a foolproof fix for your woes and worries, nor is it something I’d prescribe to anyone for fear of being written off as Satan, but it worked for me and I totally dig where Hesher‘s coming from in personifying that very therapy.

On the other hand, this premise is kind of stupid. If the events leading up to Hesher’s involvement in this story sound random, you, sir, are correct. Not that it’s needed, but there is no explanation for Hesher, and when explanations are asked of him, not a single fuck is given. And if you’re going back-and-forth about the kind of person Hesher is, he has a giant middle finger tattooed on his back to refresh your memory. Without his involvement, there wouldn’t be a movie, but even with his involvement, it takes a really long time to figure out what his purpose is. If it already sounds weird, trust me, it doesn’t get any more normal.

The kicker is that, despite the title, this movie isn’t even about Hesher. It’s about the kid and his dad trying to overcome their grief and get on with their lives with Hesher acting as the unlikely catalyst who gets them there. Not that it’s a bad thing to make a supporting character the most interesting individual in a movie, but the downside of the situation is that it makes the primary characters seem a lot less interesting in turn. On top of that, I’m still not really sure what to make of Hesher, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

The things I like about him are the things he stands for as a character. Thanks to his penchant for taking control by cutting loose, he’s got a Barry Egan quality about him, and being that Barry Egan is one of my Top Ten All-Time Movie Heroes, that’s something I’m all about. This is a guy you do not give shit to, and if you even so much as think of heading down that road, you will find yourself heading towards complete destruction. For a kid who takes shit on a daily basis and a father who’s too paralyzed with sadness to change out of his sweatpants, I can understand the wisdom that comes with Hesher slapping them in the face with their sad bastard lives. He has his moments, he has his insights, and he even gets a laugh here and there, but that’s just half the time. The other half he’s asking the kid if he’s had sex yet while fingering his mashed potatoes, making jokes to old ladies about why Kermit the Frog’s finger smells like bacon, and generally being a revolting human being who gets harder and harder to like.

I’m sure some people find that stuff hilarious, and that’s cool, but I found myself cringing a lot of the parts I should have been laughing it. It doesn’t help that the dialogue tends to be pretty weak, but even if it was poetry, I don’t tend to crack up at stuff in movies that I wouldn’t crack up at in real life. I don’t think I was supposed to like Hesher in the first place, but Hesher can be quite the annoying asshole, and I’m not too big on annoying assholes.

As for the cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good as Hesher himself, Devin Brochu is fine as the kid, it’s kinda weird to see Rainn Wilson in a serious role as his dad, and Natalie Portman is fine as the kid’s love interest of sorts. I wish I had more to say on the matter, but it’s hard to really care about the performances when you don’t really care about the characters.

If there had been more of a plot and more endearing qualities to Hesher to balance out what a scumbag he is, I think I would have had better things to say. I get what writer/director Spencer Susser was going for with Hesher and I appreciate what he’s trying to say, the issue is the way he goes about saying it. It starts out interestingly enough and feels like something pretty unique, but as the story meandered along, as the characters hardly developed, and as the plot starting jumping from one cliche to the next during the last half-hour, it just wasn’t enough to keep me invested. Props to JGL for giving it is all has usual, but a cast can only do so much with roles like these.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rita Toth permalink
    November 25, 2011 3:13 am

    What if Hesher is just symbolic for the kid`s angry, dark side?

    • November 28, 2011 8:26 am

      That’s a very real possibility, and a shrewd one at that.


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