Hesher likes loud music. Hesher likes bad tattoos. Hesher likes explosives and careless acts of violence. Hesher really doesn’t like wearing a shirt. The most surprising thing about “Hesher” is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the role brilliantly. The same Gordon-Levitt who played the endearing Cameron in “10 Things I Hate About You,” the hopeless romantic in “500 Days of Summer” and the quick-witted sidekick in last year’s “Inception.” Quite unlike any of his previous roles, Gordon-Levitt disappears within the complex character of Hesher, complete with long stringy hair and an insane sense of humor.
Instead of being an emotionally draining film about a family dealing with the loss of a mother and wife, “Hesher” provides a character who revives the story and presides as a sort of dark angel around the mourning family. Paul Forney (played almost unrecognizably by Rainn Wilson) mourns the loss of his wife by moving in with his elderly mother, growing a beard and zoning out in front of the TV. His young son T.J. (Devin Brochu) deals with the loss in an entirely different way. Despite his adorable Justin Beiber-like looks, T.J. fights his way through almost every situation he finds himself in. Disgusted with his father’s need for sweatpants and pills, he takes to the streets of suburbia and outruns bullies on his bike.
During his fights on the streets, T.J. befriends Nicole (Natalie Portman), a struggling drugstore cashier who somehow manages to be cute, even when wearing granny glasses and sweaters. When Hesher makes his entrance into the story, his unique appearance evokes an almost frightening contrast to his dull and tame surroundings. Without any warning, Hesher moves into T.J.’s house with T.J.’s numb family hardly noticing. Rather than wreaking havoc, Hesher fits right in and befriends the sweet elderly grandmother. Without revealing anything about his past, Hesher supplies the family with insightful stories that reveal his deep understanding of people. Throughout small, seemingly unimportant gestures to more grandiose ones, Hesher encourages the family to start living again.
Having received much Sundance Film Festival praise, it’s apparent this film takes everything to another level. Every aspect of Hesher is explored, whether death, sex or friendship. Almost every emotion is evoked throughout the movie and results in multiple laughs and a few teary moments. Brochu plays T.J. with raw emotion and internal angst, as an actor more mature than many twice his age. Portman’s small side character brings a sweeter light to the story and Wilson
is entirely different from the funny-man persona he is well-known for. Gordon-Levitt seems to have had fun creating this fascinating character who in many ways is so unlikeable that he ultimately becomes likeable.
Distributed by: The Last Picture Company
Directed by: Spencer Susser
Release Date: May 13