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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enticing Little Oddity - Inconsistent, But Satisfying
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...
Published on August 16, 2011 by Joshua Miller

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A snarling, broken little character study
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...
Published on September 29, 2011 by Kevin F. Tasker


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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enticing Little Oddity - Inconsistent, But Satisfying, August 16, 2011
This review is from: Hesher (DVD)
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-
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent film with a lot of heart, August 18, 2011
This review is from: Hesher [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"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.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A snarling, broken little character study, September 29, 2011
This review is from: Hesher (DVD)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth it, March 27, 2014
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This review is from: Hesher (Amazon Instant Video)
I'm a big fan of both Joseph Gordon Levitt and Natalie Portman but this was not their best work.
The movie had a great premise and definitely was going for an independent movie feel but just didn't hit the mark.
Seemed more annoying than interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NOW YOU GOT MORE CHANNELS..., October 3, 2011
This review is from: Hesher (DVD)
The story centers around TJ after his mother has died as he and his dad attempt to get their life back to normal. TJ is a bad luck kid who is not only depressed, but bullied. Hesher, an anarchist, bullies his way into TJ's life and shows up at improbable times, almost as an imaginary alter ego. The writer attempts to shock the audience with the audacity of Hesher's acts as well as his crudeness, which I thought didn't work as well...especially the idiotic scene where he is talking about granny rapers, or his "perverted metaphor." The inability of the author to create audacity without constant crudeness shows a weakness.

The actors did an excellent job. There were many scenes you sit and ask yourself, in a good way, "What just happened here?" Or "What the heck is he doing now?" Life as usual falls to its least common denominator as the grief stricken family starts to imitate the anarchist ways, which seem to lack consequences in this film. Parts of the film were excellently done, while other scenes were weak. I suppose the ending of the film was supposed to make us feel good about the whole thing, but it doesn't compensate enough. Personally I think that if they toned down the crudeness of Hesher and put in Zack Garifalakis in that role the movie could have been a box office smash.

Normally I love these indie style quirky comedies, perhaps I have seen too many of them to enjoy this one to its fullest. And what the heck was Natalie Portman doing in this film?

Excessive F-bomb use, crudeness.
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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, August 25, 2012
This review is from: Hesher (DVD)
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
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre film elevated by stellar performances., September 13, 2011
This review is from: Hesher [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a Downer, February 9, 2014
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This review is from: Hesher [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I have nothing against Amazon. After all, they can't guarantee that I'll like everything they sell me. The Blu-Ray arrived in good condition, and the acting and production values in the movie were more than competent. Unfortunately, these are the only good things I have to say about the Hesher experience. To sum up, the movie concerns a father and a son, the latter in his late tweens or earlyl teens, still grieving over the loss of the wife/mother. Hesher, a psychopathic drifter, wanders into the their lives, getting the son into all sorts of trouble and behaves offensively to the Dad. The father is a miracle of passivity who, by all rights, should have had Hesher jailed. At the end of the movie, Hesher's anti-social behavior is somehow supposed to be inspiring. The only thing it inspired me to do was banish this Blu-Ray from my home.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars meh, June 9, 2013
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This review is from: Hesher (Amazon Instant Video)
It was predicable and cringe worthy at times. I didn't get much out of it. It's just not my thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 6.9/10 - Odd and flawed, but still enjoyable, February 8, 2014
By 
This review is from: Hesher (DVD)
Note: May contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.

Choosing a single adjective to describe Hesher would be impossible due to its complete off-the-wall, and utterly unpredictable, story. A film like this one prides itself in being weird, quirky, and insane, and this confidence shows for the entire hour and 40 minutes. However, confidence can’t mask an incomplete story and some bland performances, and these are exactly the areas in which Hesher stumbles. With some odd casting choices and a weird final arc, Hesher never really connects the way that it’s supposed to, but it still manages to be enjoyable despite its obvious flaws.

The story follows a young boy, T.J. (Devin Brochu), and his father, Paul (Rainn Wilson). After a car crash leads to the death of T.J.’s mother, both individuals become depressed as they try to cope with the sudden loss. It doesn’t take long before T.J. meets the mysterious Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and pretty soon he takes up residence at T.J.’s home. Completely apathetic to the fact he wasn’t invited, Hesher continues living with the family as they deal with the grieving process. Chaos and mayhem quickly ensue, and the family learns that even someone as strange as Hesher can offer some guidance when the time calls for it.

At first, this narrative seems to be enough to stand on its own, but the writers apparently felt otherwise. In addition to the main story arc, there are arguably two others: the story of Hesher himself, and that of the young grocery story clerk, Nicole (Natalie Portamn). The former would have been intriguing, and even welcome, when paired with T.J. and Paul’s story. Unfortunately, that isn’t what the audience was given. In fact, Hesher’s character never gets explained at all. The viewer never really learns who he is, where he came from, or why he lives life the way he does. He just exists in this world, and we’re forced to accept this as adequate information.

So, instead of delving into the mystery that is the title character, Hesher decides to add a fourth party in the form of Nicole. This young woman, who’s age was never specified, is undoubtedly having a hard time in life. She only works 16 hours a week; she is unable to pay her bills, and her life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. A generic character who can easily be found in most dramas, but she isn’t terrible. My issue, though, is how insignificant and out-of-place she feels in this world. Beyond being the crush of young T.J., Nicole’s purpose in the story is hazy, to say the least. There are no words of wisdom and, like Hesher, she’s just kind of there.

Taking that into consideration, the main story arc is enough to keep things interesting. Everyone handles death differently, and Hesher sympathetically demonstrates the worst symptom: depression. Paul lays on the couch and sleeps all day, and T.J. becomes obsessed with the car his mother died in, which is sitting in the junkyard. The message, if there is one, would definitely be learning to let go. As difficult as it may seem at first, death is a part of life, and allowing yourself to slip into nothingness isn’t the proper way to handle your problems.

The real driving force in this movie, however, is Hesher himself. His dark, mysterious nature makes him instantly attractive, and as a viewer it becomes difficult to take your eyes off him whenever he’s on screen. He’s foul-mouthed, short-tempered, and incomprehensible, but this only adds to his charm. Furthermore, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a total knockout, and I was amazed at how well he got into character. There were multiple instances during the film where I had to remind myself that I was watching JGL and not some other, unknown actor. He was convincing, confident, and a blast to watch.

Unfortunately, the only other standout, in my opinion, was Rainn Wilson, but he was never given an extreme amount of dialogue. Most of his performance came from his passiveness towards life, and I think he did a great job portraying the overwhelming depression that consumes most after death. Brochu, on the other hand, was inconsistent, at best. There were a handful of moments where he truly impressed me, but a majority of the time I found his performance to be embarrassingly flat. Portman wasn’t anything to write home about, either. In addition to having an out-of-place character, her performance felt uninspired, and she always seemed confused as to why she was even there.

Overall Score: 6.9/10 - Insanely unpredictable, and a little difficult to digest, Hesher's comedic take on death and sorrow manages to be both entertaining and incredibly ridiculous. Unfortunately, the writers ignored the prospect of explaining Hesher's character, and opted to include Nicole instead. With an inconsistent story and some bland performances, Hesher never manages to live up to its potential, but it is fun in its own, unique way. It’s at least worth the rental if it piqued your interest.
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Hesher [Blu-ray]
Hesher [Blu-ray] by Spencer Susser (Blu-ray - 2011)
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