BLOGS

Hesher: Plenty of Drugs, Not Enough Head Banging

Being a big name star may mean that you get to be in all of the most "Oscar-buzzed" movies, but it also means that there is just no longer a place for you in those smaller movies about subtle emotions that once defined your career. Eventually, no matter how good of a performance you deliver, just being you makes it impossible for anyone to embrace you. In a post-Inception/post-Black Swan world Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman both give pitch perfect performances, but Hesher still suffers because of them.

Made for twee metalheads, Hesher is about 13-year-old kid, TJ (Devin Brochu), and his dad (Rainn Wilson) who have been living in a bit of a haze since an auto accident that killed the kid's mom. Acting out of frustration from his near-catatonic dad and his constant school bullying, TJ attracts the attention of Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who ends up staying in TJ's garage. Serving as a powerful embodiment of TJ's feelings of abandonment and anger, Hesher blows up cars, steals cable, and helps TJ befriend Natalie Portman, whose character probably had her life changed by The Shins once. And eventually Hesher gives TJ and his dad the emotional push they need to move past their grief.

Sort of like whatever timeless city without cellphones or computers TJ lives in, the movie just feels out of sync with its place in time. Mostly this comes from our over-familiarity with the bigger stars here. Portman gives it her best to update her character from Garden State into a broken woman while Gordon-Levitt brings back locks longer than we ever saw on 3rd Rock in an attempt to play off-type, yet neither slips into their roles without bringing the baggage of their recent success. Of course, they aren't solely responsible for the movie feeling off. Any time anyone is supposed to be feeling something other than pain or hurt the movie comes to a halt, especially during the slow motion emotional climax and Wilson singing Teenager in Love during a flashback. This even applies to the dark humor of the movie that is also disappointingly limited.

For anyone whom this movie might "speak to," Hesher is full of pathos and meaning. For the rest of us it is full of heavy guitar riffs and bong hits signifying nothing.

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