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Hesher

Natalie Portman , Joseph Gordon-Levitt , Spencer Susser    DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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As the title character in Hesher, Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears a grungy fright wig and anarchic death-metal attitude to match. He's worlds away from the suave, immaculately groomed covert operative he played in Inception. But what's consistent in both performances and the thing that gives the über-indie and perhaps overly nihilistic Hesher its punch is Gordon-Levitt's sleek, leonine physicality. Hesher is a mysterious, violent, rude, yet affectingly empathetic drifter who appears in the life of 13-year-old T.J., his depressed father, and ailing grandmother, all of whom are grieving the recent death of the boy's mother. Hesher drives a beat-up black van and sleeps in vacant houses (until he moves uninvited into T.J.'s garage), popping in and out of the action at random and seemingly just to bring more chaos into the life of T.J. and his family. Whether Hesher is what the family needs to unscrew itself from the funk of extreme dysfunction caused by their communal tragedy is something first-time writer-director Spencer Susser tries hard to work out, and not always with complete success. It's a tough and very messy narrative that runs dangerously close to mawkishness, but for the vicious outbursts of brutality, aggression, and deep-seated emotional pain lying just beneath everyone's surface. Hesher is the catalyst, and fortunately Gordon-Levitt's physical grace is extraordinarily compelling as he pushes and punishes his lithe body in complete commitment to the role. This is a severely damaged soul who's probably beyond redemption himself, but understands that he still has something to give that might be of aid to someone else. As the primary beneficiary of the salvation on offer, Devin Brochu is an impressive little brother-like match as T.J., even as he's constantly exposed to the physical danger that's a by-product of being in proximity to Hesher (kudos to the tiny stunt double who gets tossed around like a rag doll). The rest of the cast do their best to keep up with the bedlam. Rainn Wilson is stretching some little-used actorly muscles as the near-catatonic dad for whom something must change, and Natalie Portman looking positively frumpy as a down-and-out ragamuffin who crosses paths with both T.J. and Hesher seems also to be trying to put a shine on her indie cred. Piper Laurie's turn as the obese, uncomprehending grandmother is a poignant peak in her long career and a character that's integral to the changes everyone else experiences, most especially Hesher himself. --Ted Fry

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Is Like Walking In The Rain March 4 2012
By Tommy Dooley HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
This is one of those rare indi type films that is hard to categorise, except in being able to say it is ruddy excellent. It is about a young boy T.J. (Devin Brochu), who has lost his mother in a fatal car crash His father Paul (Rain Wilson of 'Super' fame) is wallowing in prescription drug dependency as a way to by pass the grief. They are living with his Grandma and life is slowly unravelling.

After T.J. smashes a window of a house where Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is crashing, their paths become entwined. Hesher follows him in the best stalker style and decides he will just move in. The first thing he does is strip off and do his laundry followed by making an illegal cable hook up so they can get more TV channels ' especially of the more adult variety.

T.J. is dealing with ghosts and bullies in equal measure and that leads to a chance meeting with supermarket cashier Nicole (Natalie Portman). T.J. bonds with her but Hesher is never too far away. He has an unhealthy like for profanity, porn, Metallica and arson; an ideal house guest you might say. Therfore not the sort of friend a young boy should really be associated with. What happens though is that the more mayhem he creates the more he breaks the catharsis of grief that is holding every body back.

This film does not stick to any convention, it is totally unpredictable and that is the essence of Hesher himself. There are no real pretty actors everything is seemingly low rent but with real people and it is so refreshing for that. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to take on challenging roles and make interesting and well crafted cinema and is one of those actors who can be relied upon to make viewing, anything he is in, worthwhile.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible April 5 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This was the worst movie I've ever seen in a long time. Very slow and boring, bad acting (except for Joseph).
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars why did i get this Feb. 20 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have no idea why I bought this. Maybe because I am a metallica fan but other then the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a metal head who loves Metallica which I connected with the movie was just ok to me. Mild humor, not too much action and kinda slow moving at parts. I have seen this movie a few times before and basically i came up with the idea that it isn't the kind of movie you want to watch over and over and over again. Not worthy of buying but definately worth a watch.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars bizarre Feb. 6 2012
By Sorpse
Format:DVD
im not sure if there is anything quite like hesher, its so weird and hard to understand. Why dont they get rid of him? why is he allowed to stay? it seems like there a lot of hidden messages here that i just dont understand.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  134 reviews
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enticing Little Oddity - Inconsistent, But Satisfying Aug. 16 2011
By Joshua Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Take a linear narrative, throw in a dash of chaos, and you end up with Hesher, a film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 but didn't see an official theatrical release until 2011. Playing with the person-helps-grieving-family storyline we've seen countless times, this is one of those indie dramas that assembles a cast of well-known actors and allows them to branch out from what's expected of them. The story, whether good or bad, functions as an opportunity for actors to play against type in a way that a typical mainstream movie wouldn't allow. Hardly a surprise, Hesher opened to mixed reviews with the majority of praise going to the actors and the majority of complaints going to the script and film itself. Well, with performances of this caliber and a story that is stronger than it has been given credit for; this film is actually quite successful.

T.J. (Devin Brochu) and his father Paul (Rainn Wilson) have recently suffered a traumatic loss that leaves them living with T.J.'s grandmother (Piper Laurie) and retreating into depression. T.J., who has found himself frequently tormented at school, becomes reclusive from those around him, while Paul wanders around the house in a prescription drug-induced daze. One day, T.J. stumbles upon Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), whose name and presence seem to be accompanied by the music of Metallica. In a classic example of deus ex machina, Hesher appears out of nowhere, with no back-story, and no reason to be in the film. He looks like a Grunge-era reject, drives a beat-up old van, has an upraised middle finger tattooed on his back, and seems to embrace chaos. He's also indifferent to societal rules; willfully disrespectful, vulgar, and violent. Despite T.J.'s protests, he moves into T.J.'s house and no one seems to care. During this time, T.J. meets Nicole (Natalie Portman), a young woman who captures his attention but turns her own attention to Hesher.

There are some inconsistencies in the script, particularly in regards to the title character. There is no logical reason for him to be in this film and his entire existence is disconnected from everything around him. The writers struggle to stay true to this strange character as he seems abnormally out-of-this-world one moment and like a human being with feelings and a conscience the next. It's a predictable move for this film to shape him from an ominous, violent thug into a caring, gentle soul; but luckily Gordon-Levitt is a gifted enough actor to make this transformation believable. Levitt crossed the threshold from child actor to real actor long ago, so there's no need to provide further proof about his acting ability. Regardless, Hesher is a great character role despite the inability of the film to define just who/what the character is. Once Levitt appears in character, it's impossible to take your eyes off him and who else but Levitt could make Hesher's speech at the end reach such a level of comic poignancy? Aside from Hesher, who is only truly developed from the performance rather than the script, the characters here are very well-developed and are brought to life marvelously.

This is the second time this year that Wilson has branched out from his Office character to prove what a gifted actor he is. There's very little humor in his character, giving Wilson the chance to stretch his acting muscles and bring Paul through a seamlessly convincing character arc. Brochu is a gifted young talent who brings some real, convincing emotional depth to the character of T.J. and Laurie, as the grandmother, is a lovely addition to the cast.

Hesher is an unapologetically weird little film that is destined to be misunderstood by most audiences. This little oddity of an indie drama is dark and violent, but ultimately sweet and hopeful and even funny at times. By the time Hesher reaches the end of his character arc, it's all a bit contrived, but, call me crazy, I was quite fond of it. It plays with a traditional formula, isn't afraid to take chances, and boasts some very memorable performances. It's no masterpiece, but it's an enticing, satisfying film that kept me glued to the screen for its entire running time.

GRADE: A-
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent film with a lot of heart Aug. 18 2011
By Patrick Wilkinson - Published on Amazon.com
"Life is like walking in the rain... you can hide and take cover or you can just get wet."

Rarely in a film do I find a quote within it that perfectly describes the lessons it's trying to portray. In "Hesher", directed by Spencer Susser, this quote resonated with me. It was not until I heard that line that I fully understood what this movie was about. "Hesher" is a great film. One with a lot of heart and some brilliant writing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the outrageous Hesher perfectly and is by far (aside from "Mysterious Skin") his best work to date.

"Hesher" plays out like a weird dream. T.J., impressively played by Devin Brochu, is a young boy struggling with the loss of his mother. He lives with his father Paul and his grandmother. Paul, played by Rain Wilson, has fallen into a deep depression letting go all of his responsibility to his son and his own mother. It's a very tragic situation they are in. In a fit of rage T.J. vandalizes what he thinks is an unoccupied building and as a result is confronted by Hesher, terrifying T.J. in the process. Hesher decides to follow T.J. to his home and lets himself in. T.J. can't do anything about this random person entering the house, doing laundry and generally just making himself at home for fear that Hesher will harm his family. What follows is a plethora of black comedy and heartfelt change within both Hesher and this distraught family.

At it's heart, "Hesher" is a film about not being able to see the things that are right in front of us until an outsider smacks us in the face with reality. This isn't apparent in the beginning of the film, but as Hesher gets to know the family and the situation they are in he goes from "house squatting" to being part of the family. In doing so the family is able to climb out of the rut they are in and fill the void left by the passing of the mother with the idea that life goes on. The film takes a lot of time to get to this realization, but the time spent getting there is great fun to watch.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt impresses me more every time I see him. His portrayal of the careless, fowl mouthed, violent, heavy metal loving outsider that we have all known at some point in our lives is spot on. Levitt seemed to really engulf himself into this role, almost to the point where he wasn't acting and just being himself. Rain Wilson also impressed me. His feature films have generally been him re-hashing his role from "The Office" in various outrageous situations. This time he was genuine and proved to this reviewer that his range goes beyond the weird goofball we are used to seeing. Natalie Portman plays the small role of T.J.'s older love interest. She was good, but her role seemed more like filler than anything else. There is nothing wrong with that, her character just wasn't an important role to the story it seemed.

One of the best aspects of this film was the relationship between Hesher and the grandmother, Madeleine, played by Piper Laurie. Hesher sees how Madeleine is just wandering aimlessly while Paul and T.J. deal with their problems completely ignoring her needs. Hesher, I think finds something that reminds him of his own mother in Madeleine and shares some sweet moments with her. Fortunately for Hesher, the grandmother's age has left her with the ability to completely ignore the fact that Hesher is just a stranger intruding into their lives and ends up treating him like one of her own. This, I think is the turning point for Hesher and we see the change within him.

This film goes much deeper than what is on the surface. Director and writer Spencer Susser did an amazing job with keeping the underlying meanings hidden until the right time for them to come to fruition. Not once was I bored with what was going on and I couldn't wait to see what the next scene had to offer. With this being Susser's first feature film, I am excited to see what he has next in the pipeline. Make no mistake, there is some vial language in this film so it's not for those that will not be able to get past the offensiveness of it all. But as I said, underneath the chain-smoking jerk that is Hesher you will find a kind soul that needed the Forney family just as much as they needed him.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A snarling, broken little character study Sept. 29 2011
By Kevin F. Tasker - Published on Amazon.com
Hesher, like its titular character, is a bombastic, pitch-black, nihilistic and more or less repugnant film...that is not to say that it is not sometimes quite enjoyable. It is very well shot but not flashy and Levitt, as always, is reliable. Rainn Wilson stretches his acting muscles slightly, donning a grizzly beard, some lethargic sweats, and making us forget all about the kooky flair of 'Dwight.' Natalie Portman is fine in a role that could have largely been played by anyone, save a scene near the end when she brings a little more personality to her character symbolically. The real star of the film however is young TJ (Devin Brochu), who is equally agitated and enamored by Hesher, a force of black-metal nature who infiltrates his life with manic jams, bi-polar explosions and enough profanity to make John Waters wince.
This film is tenaciously vulgar, Hesher streaming vile language to a desensitizing degree. He even ends once exchange by saying. "One more thing--" before letting loose a giant fart. Shakespeare, this is not. However, there are several moments of rare and affecting poignancy sprinkled throughout scenes of selfish, useless destruction. The burnt/smashed cars, intimidation, etc etc are all anchored by young Brochu's mourning for his dead mother. Scenes involving the mother's car ring true and are welcome respites from Hesher's non-stop barrage of, well...Hesher. Without these sequences--particularly one late in the film where we see more of the family's relationship as it existed before the loss-- Hesher would be incredibly depressing.
In fact, it is still fairly depressing.
Hesher seemingly does his personal best to ensure this.
He is a cipher, a darkness, a lack of humanity.
For much of his screen time, he leers, smokes, grunts, moves with a rank primal energy.
We can't tell if he is an anti-hero or not...usually he is just reckless, depraved, and watchable. His metaphoric soliloquies (particularly the epically humorous and gross and tragic one at the funeral) are worth the price of admission alone.
It is a departure for Levitt, that is for sure, playing a character more akin to the haunted prostitute he played in Mysterious Skin than any films he has done lately. His character is a bruiser, a fairly unlikable wretch. And yet he gets the girl, he befriends the grandma, he rescues the kid...when he feels like it. The film which has trouble containing him is an unapologetic, drab, oft-intense and malicious picture. It is full of scratches, scars, and occasional shreds of understanding. There is an unrestrained power here, if you can handle the darkness, the brooding, the concussive expletive-heavy dialogue.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The main character does not carry the title: it is DJ Aug. 25 2012
By Jacques COULARDEAU - Published on Amazon.com
An excellent boy film, film about a boy at the sorrow and sad age of twelve or something, when the boy is confronted with real life, that is to say mourning and a boy that age does not know how to deal with mourning. Death maybe, but mourning no. Death is simple. It comes and it is finished. You stay behind and the real thing is starting: mourning.

Imagine an accident and you lose a parent and the car. You can mourn the parent or you can just accept the death of that parent and mourn the car. Mourning is a form of love that attaches you to an object or a person that no longer lives or exists. So mourning for a child of twelve is dramatic because he does not see beyond the present and because mourning is for him eternal.

He can get attached to a stranger who is going to create havoc around him, that's Hesher, or to a nice young woman who is going to become the substitute of the dead mother, and all the time he is going to be attached to the car in which the mother died, him in the back and his father at the wheel. He does not know what he is doing of course, but he has become a fetishist of the car. And that is sad.

And one day another dramatic event will happen and that will bring the crazy friend around and that will bring the world upside down and that will bring the world back onto its feet because it was standing its feet in the air before. And mourning will be finished and closure will be reached and life can start existing again, but unluckily the friend who created that havoc will have disappeared though he will present you with the cadaver of the car on your doorstep.

And you can keep that cadaver for ever and ever in your front garden or your back yard, next to your swimming pool if you have one or behind your cherry tree if there is one in your back garden.

That's why this film is interesting because it tells you how a boy of 12 years of age or so will find closure for the dramatic event that has sent his mind right upside down under his knees and next to his soles. There is a tremendous empathy in the anger it expresses, I don't mean tell, just your empathy of anger you get out of the story, if you have ever experienced such a loss at such an early age. If you haven't you will never ever be able to really get any event to closure because it will always be foreclosed before it happens, since foreclosure is always before the term of some said period of time.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre film elevated by stellar performances. Sept. 13 2011
By DanD - Published on Amazon.com
HESHER tells a tale that we've seen before: outcast boy (Devin Brochu) copes with a pill-popping father (Rainn Wilson) and a well-meaning but misunderstood grandmother (Piper Laurie). He gets picked on by a bully, meets a beautiful outcast girl (Natalie Portman), and befriends a nihilistic loner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Heartwarming chaos ensues.

It took three people to write HESHER, which is a little disturbing, considering the film doesn't have much original to offer. It's nice to see a film revolving around such a violent character, but the violence is grossly understated and rarely prominent (except for Gordon-Levitt's riveting first scene). Hesher's potential violence pretty much remains potential, and the inevitable heartwarming end (yes, you knew it was coming, you know it from the second or third scene) undermines any promise the film truly had.

Then why three stars? Because of the performances. Gordon-Levitt is reliable as always; in his best scenes, he sinks his teeth into Hesher and lets 'er rip. Brochu does the brooding child thing well, with a delightful hint of menace and vulnerability thrown in for good measure. Wilson is superb as the father, and Portmant is a little too sexy for her role (we're supposed to believe no one cares about a girl who looks like that? Really?) but, as always, she makes the best of what she's given. More kudos go to the always-great Piper Laurie, and John Carroll Lynch (grossly under-used, as always).

Ultimately, HESHER is a bit of a let-down. It doesn't know what it wants to be: bada** flick about conflicted relationships and coping with loss, or feel-good drama with a little dirt rubbed in. Ultimately, the dirt doesn't break the surface, and HESHER remains little more than a promise unfulfilled. But see it for the performances, especially the scene between Laurie and Gordon-Levitt--two of the best actors of their respective generations, sharing an intimate moment and playing their talents off one another. It doesn't get more entertaining than that; too bad the rest of the film doesn't equal that level of greatness (though, in a few keys moments, it comes pretty close).
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