Hesher – Lazy Surrealism with a Jolt Of Anarchy

Country: United States
Genre: Art/ Comedy/ Drama
Director: Spencer Susser
Year: 2010

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Hesher is a prototypical Sundance feature film, pokey, full of dialog like “um, I dunno, kind of, maybe” blah blah blah, that takes surrealism as an excuse not to do the work of creating believable characters and a tight plot.

It’s got a secret weapon, though, and that is the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is breathtakingly truthful, even when the screenplay puts pure nonsense in his mouth and even, miracle of miracles, when the screenplay forces him to act in ways that the character never would.

It’s too bad that writer/director Spencer Susser isn’t a better craftsmen, because he starts out with a promising idea.

Ten year old T.J. (Devin Brochu) is having a rough time of it. His mother died two months before and his father (Rainn Wilson) can’t snap out of his grief. Into all this steps Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a force of pure anarchy.

Susser wants to say something about bravery in the face of loss, and he has the characters to do it, but not the dramatic chops, either as a writer or as a director. Most of the time, he’s either vague or on the nose. His plotting doesn’t pass the smell test. If you want to make a surrealistic film, the best way to do it is to create a narrative that could happen, that makes sense, but is just a quarter tone off. If you want to do magical realism, all it takes is a drop of magic. Instead, shit happens more or less because the writer said so, and the whole exercise ends up feeling forced and arbitrary.

So no, overall, Hesher isn’t worth seeing, but admirers of great, committed character acting might want to check it out anyway, solely on the strength of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s amazing performance as Hesher.

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