Hesher

21 Jun

Title: Hesher
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Spencer Susser
Writers: Spencer Susser and David Michôd, based on a story by Brian Charles Frank
Starring: 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie
MPAA Rating: 
R, disturbing violent behavior, sexual content including graphic dialogue, pervasive language, and drug content – some in the presence of a child
Runtime: 
106 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
53%

 

And so here we are, at the final stop on the Natalie Portman Movie Domination Tour 2011. Because, as you may have noticed if you’ve been to the movies in this first half of 2011, Ms. Portman, fresh off the Best Actress Oscar she won for my favorite film of 2010, has been everywhere: from her turn in the R-rated rom-com No Strings Attached back in January, to the medieval stoner flick that was Your Highness a few months later, to her very own superhero blockbuster in Thor to kick off the summer, to the more indie project that was The Other Woman, she’s done everything. And I usually would be against such huge overexposure, five films in less than six months is really something, but you look at the roles she has in each of them and they couldn’t be more different from each other, so at least she’s been exercising her range, just having fun with her choices. Not to mention that those four films I listed have all been pretty damn decent (I’ve given them, in the order I named them, grades of B+, B, A- and B) which means that it’s not as though making all them so close to each other is taking away from the overall quality of any of them.

But, before Ms. Portman can take a well deserved breather, as she currently has no announced projects in which she’s set to star, we have to take a look at the fifth and final film she’s been in this year, which is Hesher. Now, the film is probably the worst out of the five 2011 releases she’s been in (remember I liked Your Highness a bit better than most), but it’s still good, and I’ll recommend it to people. Plus a film like this was bound to be polarizing, as it’s not really all that often that you get an insight that’s so dark, and so lacking of any real emotion, to any character like you do with our titular character here, and I personally liked that about this film, I thought it did it’s own very peculiar thing and it didn’t care about any conceptions people may make about it. However, as cool as refreshing as that may have been, at times it felt as the movie was doing that just for the sake of doing that, not really achieving anything outside of it.

And that’s, I think, what prevented the film from being truly something special, that more times than not I felt like it didn’t have any reason to exist at all, harsh as that may sound. Don’t get me wrong, the performance given by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role is absolutely incredible, a magnetic one that will keep you drawn to the film for its entirety, and Ms. Portman and Rainn Wilson are also very good in their supporting turns, but there was just no real substance to Hesher when it all was said and done. I mean, yes, we get a main character that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, a guy with long hair, creepy eyes, who loves porn and heavy metal, and has stupid tattoos that display gun violence on his chest, but once that novelty wears off there’s not much more underneath that.

And this character is pitted next to other characters that you just can tell weren’t meant to be in a movie together, something which is actually beneficial to that whole weird feel the movie has. I mean, Hesher himself is just thrown into the house of this 13-year-old kid named T.J. who’s point of view we see the film from, a kid who has just lost his mother, has a father that’s still in shock after becoming a widow, played sensationally well by Mr. Wilson, and a grandmother, played by Piper Laurie, who’s just sick of holding the fort together all on her own. And the reasons why Hesher, a guy that’s so different from them, is now to live with them, or just who he is, or where he came from, are never really explained here. And because T.J.’s father and grandmother are so depressed and idle with grief, they don’t really question why this bizarre guy is now to live with them, and they’re inactive when faced with his strange and violent antics.

And what happens after that feeling of not really know why everything is happening, nor why Nicole, the supermarket cashier Ms. Portman plays, is brought into the picture, you just get a movie that, while extremely well-acted, isn’t really saying much of anything. I mean, obviously there’s this big resolution at the end of the film after we’ve seen Hesher do his offensive and violent thing for an hour and a half, but even that I thought just didn’t really provide a solid enough sense of closure here. I liked the film, don’t get me wrong, but that’s fully because of Mr. Gordon-Levitt, Ms. Portman and Mr. Wilson, who I thought were simply superb, and even though I believe Spencer Susser, the first-time director of this one, showed some really promising things with his debut here, I think he crafted a character too complex and big to really contain successfully at his first big go-round at the helm.

Grade: B-

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