A blog about movies and filmmaking.

A Perverted Metaphor | HESHER

In drama on May 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I really wish I could use the Metallica lightning bolts on the name in the title. That would be rad…Almost as rad as the movie itself. HESHER is a mythical tale that harkens back to the days of yore when kids patrolled themselves and parents were only there to say “hi” and “goodbye” to on the way out the door…Or to pick you up from the Principal’s office or Police Station.

The fact that Hesher is sort of ET mixed with FIGHT CLUB makes this one of my favorite movies of the year. (And don’t worry, that comparison doesn’t reveal any twists or anything.)

The movie starts with a young boy riding his bicycle, working hard to go someplace despite the cast on his arm. We see he’s chasing a tow truck that’s hauling a beat-up, crashed car. When the truck gets to it’s destination – an auto repair shop, lorded over by John Carroll Lynch – the kid hops off his bike and jumps in the car. Refusing to come out. You won’t need to be a genius to figure out what’s going on here.

The boy (Devin Brochu) gets home, where his father (played by Rainn Wilson) is nearly catatonic, and his grandmother (played by the legendary Piper Laurie) is just a little loopy – or possibly just lonely. They eat meals, they watch TV, but nothing’s said. They’re all grieving in one way or another. The next day on the way to school, the boy – named TJ, just so I don’t have to keep typing “the boy” – crashes his bike in front of a house under construction. In anger, he throws a rock through the front window and as he starts to leave; a long-haired, weirdly tattooed man comes charging out of the house, dragging TJ back in. This would be Hesher, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt like a mix between the Devil and the young alien character, he played, from THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN. A security guard arrives to check out the racket and Hesher throws a pipe bomb out the window. Cue the heavy metal.

Going in, after having only seen the trailer, I expected this to be what the movie was going to subject me to for two hours. Anarchy, violence, and Metallica blasting through the theater’s speakers. And there’s definitely a good amount of all of that. But, there’s also a message in here. The movie doesn’t dwell on it, but if you’re paying attention with anything other than your lizard brain, you should pick it up. The story is about not letting life get the better of you. Hesher, while being almost an apparition through a lot of the story, is showing these characters how to get off the couch and just because they’ve been beat up, it doesn’t mean they’re done. He reveals this through actions – like setting a bullies car on fire or telling vulgar and inappropriate stories as sort of “perverted metaphors.” Though he doesn’t seem to know what that word is. And that’s where the Tyler Durden vibe comes in…Unless, all these characters are suffering from a shared delusion of a man with a stick figure tattooed on his torso, blowing his brains out.

There are parts of the movie that fall into that Alejandro Inarritu vibe, of having to give the audience a visual look into whatever tragedy is afflicting the characters, but it’s forgivable. For the most part the movie really seemed to respect the characters and understand that they’re tortured enough without putting them through even rougher times. TJ and his father, cope with their losses; Nicole, the girl from the grocery store – who is played by Natalie Portman – has made a friend; and even Hesher has possibly made a connection he hadn’t in a long time. In the end there’s catharsis, both emotionally and physically – especially with the final message from Hesher.

I really thought the movie was excellent and coming from Spencer Susser – who co-wrote the movie with David Michôd
who wrote and directed last year’s ANIMAL KINGDOM – brings another twisted voice into independent cinema. Considering both Animal Kingdom and HESHER focus on the stories of kids adapting to a grown-up world, I think I like what they’ve got to say and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Definitely check it out.

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