The Philadelphia Film Festival last year showed some much anticipated movies that turned into some of the must see movies of the year. At the forefront is “Hesher,” a film directed and partly written by Spencer Susser. This is a darkly comedic movie about a loner anarchist who forces his way into the lives of a grieving family. Hesher is a debatably crazy, unkempt loner who keeps you guessing as to what he will do next. The story starts when he meets T.J. (Devin Brochu) a young boy still grieving over the death of his mother, and decides to be an unexpected and uninvited houseguest for as long as he pleases. Hesher is now in theaters and is worth it to see.
The plot is fairly simple. Hesher shows up and decides to make life hell for T.J and his father (played by Rainn Wilson.) But there is so much more to this movie than watching a highly entertaining character be funny. While the character of Hesher is so intense that he steals every scene he is in, in the end, the movie still manages to be about the relationship between these people who have all been beat up by life. Hesher’s presence could be seen as a symbol of death depending on the perspective of the viewer. He shows up unexpectedly, never really explains why he is there and the characters learn to cope with his constant presence. This is paralleled by the fact that T.J. and his father are trying to pull their lives back together after the untimely death of T.J.’s mother.
The inherent sadness in a movie centering around a family that has suffered a loss is oftentimes overshadowed by the absurdity of Hesher’s character. Joseph Gordon Levitt is excellent as this character who can’t really be figured out. Much like the movie, he switches between beats of hilarity and seriousness without a hitch. One moment this movie will have you laughing hysterically and the next moment you will be on the verge of tears. Levitt’s comedic timing when switching between these lines is perfect and appropriately matches the overall feel of his character. Sometimes he seems as if he is a brilliant person in disguise, trying to convey some important epiphany about life, and then he will say something that makes you think he is just an idiot. It is up to the audience to decide.
In-between trying to figure out why Hesher is the way he is, there are plenty of other interesting characters to follow. Devin Brochu plays T.J., a boy going through a tough time in his life. He has just lost his mother, is the victim of harsh bullying at school and has a grief-ravaged father who isn’t any help. Brochu is basically an unknown talent, only appearing in a few features, but he is amazing in this lead role. He has a certain innocence that shines through his performance and makes his character believable and sympathetic. Interactions with his father in the film are where this can be seen vividly. Rainn Wilson is dead on as the grief-stricken father who is as useless in his own life as he is in his son’s. His performance is much different from the usual comedic roles he plays, but it is consistent and well done. Natalie Portman is also well cast in the small role of an offbeat love interest of sorts.
The beauty of this movie is that there does seem to be a statement it is trying to express about death and life. But, the film does not harp on this point; it simply puts it out there to be found and then uses its vibrant characters to entertain. Hesher is a clever film with a deep core outlined by hilarious moments and excellent performances.