That’ll add a few difficulty points to the dives.


Theatrical Release Date: 05/13/2011
Director: Spencer Susser
Cast: Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, Natalie Portman, Brendan Hill
Rated: R for disturbing violent behavior, sexual content including graphic dialogue, pervasive language, and drug content – some in the presence of a child.
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes


Trailer:

So what if my skin tone blends in with the wallpaper?

No one is happier about the recent surge in popularity and marketability of Australian filmmakers than I am. Whether it’s really good films like “The Square” from the Edgerton brothers or David Michôd’s fantastic “Animal Kingdom“, more and more Aussie projects are getting theatrical releases stateside.

My overwhelming bias towards all things Australian aside, these films also help to break the monotony of crappy Rom-Coms, mindless car chase explosion fests, and whatever the hell it is that Michael Bay does.

Throwing his cork hat into the ring is director Spencer Susser with “Hesher”. He co-wrote the screenplay with the aforementioned David Michôd and its a project I’ve been eagerly anticipating on this year’s slate of films, especially because the titular character is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

One thing I wasn’t looking forward to was the inclusion of Natalie Portman who I simply need a break from, thanks to the convergence of so many of her projects coming to screen in such a short window (“No Strings Attached“, “Your Highness“, “Thor“, and now “Hesher”). Oddly, she was the first actor onboard (she’s also a producer so I do thank her for helping to get this made) and Susser had her in mind when writing the character. I say ‘oddly’ because she’s the weakest link in the chain and her performance reminded me of a certain princess on Naboo (yeah, it’s that bad).

Thankfully, there is the increasingly consistent greatness of Gordon-Levitt to counterbalance what’s wrong with the Force. At one point, he even reenacts the trash compactor scene from Star Wars (Episode IV, none of that prequel crap). Sure he loves metal music, hence the moniker of Hesher, but he isn’t just an angry young man, swearing up a storm and destroying property because he feels like it.

He’s also a guardian angel figure for TJ (Devin Brochu) and considering the almost fantasy like qualities to how the story develops, Susser has even compared Hesher to a heavy metal Mary Poppins. He also imagined that of all the people in the world, Hesher would have looked up to Cliff Burton, the original bassist in Metallica. Getting their songs then became an important element and after seeing the film and seeing Burton’s likeness in the character, they agreed to the use of their music.

While he initially comes off as someone purely interested in chaos and out for himself, there is a fierce loyalty within Hesher. He takes a tough love approach but eventually entrenches himself in TJ’s problems with a bully at school (Brendan Hill), the loss of his mother, and the strained home life with Dad (Rainn Wilson) and Grandma (Piper Laurie).

However, as much as I enjoyed the humor, the film isn’t without faults. This is Susser’s first feature-length film and it shows. The general aesthetic and composition of the shots is often poor. The entire arc of Portman’s character serves little purpose (and as mentioned earlier, was a terrible display of “acting”). Also, while I was so swept up by JGL’s performance, that may not be enough for some who feel there is an imbalance between reality and the more absurd actions Hesher undertakes.

This is a crude film, both in its filmmaking and in its humor. If this sort of crassness isn’t for you, then I could understand one’s aversion to the movie. I’m far less civilized and reveled in the blunt, and sometimes brutal, nature of “Hesher”. Although it pulls its punches a bit at the end, JGL fans will certainly want to check this out. Despite its flaws (and again, despite Portman), I give it a 3 out of 5 and look forward to seeing what Susser learned from this experience and if that translates into even better work in the future.

3 out of 5