SXSW Film: Hesher

Let me just say right away that I have been looking forward to seeing Hesher since it premiered in it’s unfinished state last year at Sundance and the buzz on it began to roam. I also fully believe that Joseph Gordon Levitt has the skill to become one of the next great actors like Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert DeNiro. I became even more interested when I learned the film also starred Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson. Well I finally got my chance to take the film in and I was not disappointed. In fact, I would like to take in another screening here at SXSW before it’s over.

Hesher is the story of a loner that hates the world and everyone who bugs him. He has long hair, looks malnourished and is covered with homemade tattoos that also shout his hatred to the world. It’s obvious that he is near homeless when young TJ throws a rock through an abandoned building’s window and Hesher comes gliding out with hate in eyes ready to pounce on who ever just interrupted his day. From this moment, Hesher and TJ are bound together by a strange force that neither can shake.

The story sounds like it centers around Hesher, but the real story is of TJ and his father who are both currently dealing with loss and and the stages of grief. From what we can gather, TJ is still dealing with the anger stage, where as his father, played by Rainn Wilson has moved into the depression stage. He sleeps all day long, doesn’t clean himself and appears to pop a lot of pills to deal with the pain. It is when Hesher comes into their lives, in a rather hilarious way, that they begin to change and deal with their situation a bit better.

Hesher is a crazy, radical and sometimes scary guy to be around. He seems to fear nothing and will only do what he wants, even if it means others around him get hurt. But somewhere, underneath the grime and filth and long greasy hair, there is a person that is serving a purpose to a family, whether he wants to or not. The first moments of this sincerity are shared with TJ’s grandmother, who also lives with them. She is old, and a little confused at times, but Hesher never scares her.

The overall tone of the film lends itself to have you believe that Hesher is in fact, the walking, talking symbol of death that has moved in with this family and won’t leave, and just as soon as they begin to learn how to function with him around, plans change again. It was a beautiful metaphor for life and what all people deal with one time or another in their lives.

Now that may have sounded like the most abstract review ever, but I really don’t want to spoil too much for you. I went in blind, and loved every minute of it. Now it’s not all a solemn story, there is actually a huge amount of humor in Hesher. Levitt pulled off the part perfectly. It was obvious that this was a passion project for him. He looked like he had starved himself to a certain degree for the part and studied whatever needed to be studied to pull off the anger and fear, while also infusing quite a bit of humor in for the audience. Another actor that I must mention is Devin Brochu, who played the young TJ. Some say that kids can act better than adults because it’s not really acting for them in the first place. Whatever it was, it equaled raw talent for portraying a child that doesn’t want to move on from the death, and is simply floating alone trying to figure things out.

This is Spencer Susser’s first full length feature, having only filmed shorts beforehand. I think it’s obvious that he needs to continue the trend with full length stories as it is obvious that he has some stories to tell. With a fantastic cast, and provocative and unique story, Hesher is a film that can not be missed by anyone. If you do, Hesher might just show up at your house and not leave.

I give Hesher 5 “heavy metal riffs” out of 5

by Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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