You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Director Spencer Susser spikes every scene with gratuitous provocations and repetitive vulgarities.

Hesher - Joseph Gordon-Levitt T.J. - Devin Brochu Paul Forney - Rainn Wilson Nicole - Natalie Portman Madeleine Forney - Piper Laurie

A badass loner employs his own peculiarly noxious ways of pulling a boy out of paralyzing grief in “Hesher.” Debuting director Spencer Susser redeems his willfully antisocial central character via a climactic act of charity bordering on love, but prior to that goes out of his way to spike every scene with gratuitous provocations and repetitive vulgarities that become old very quickly. Still, the violent anarchist with a giant upraised middle finger tattooed on his back played with manifest enthusiasm by Joseph Gordon-Levitt will appeal to more than a few young males, giving this indie with 22 producers a good shot at an active commercial life.

Hesher” is far from the first picture to make something of its own from the basic premise of Jean Renoir’s “Boudu Saved from Drowning,” that being the invasion of a household by a wayward, unstoppable, transformative force of nature. Here, the interloper is a Charles Manson lookalike with a tat on his chest of a guy blowing his brains out, who, without benefit of an invitation, plunks himself down in a modest San Fernando Valley home whose occupants are suffocating with the depression of mourning.

Prepubescent T.J. (Devin Brochu) goes through the motions of attending school, but is obsessed with retrieving from salvage the car in which his mother died in a wreck two months earlier. Dad (Rainn Wilson) has turned into a vegetable, while Grandma (Piper Laurie) is at least able to put food into the mouths of the sad, dysfunctional males. In a particularly grating subplot, little T.J. is violently bullied for unknown reasons by a much bigger boy, and Dad’s half-hearted effort to participate with his son in “transformational grief therapy” washes out.

In this menagerie of emotional zombies, Hesher has free rein. Physically threatening and scarily temperamental, the long-haired heavy-metal freak lounges around in his underwear, watches porn, fills the house with variations on the F-word and soon gets T.J. in enough trouble to land him at the police station. Never supplied with an ounce of backstory, Hesher is a hyperactive volcano that erupts several times daily; whatever the reasons, he betrays no trace of giving a damn about anyone or anything.

One vaguely bright spot in T.J.’s life is a literally accidental relationship he forms with impoverished grocery cashier Nicole (co-producer Natalie Portman, sporting outsized Sarah Palin-style glasses that give her a queasily strong resemblance to — Sarah Palin). Typically, Hesher spoils the budding friendship by meanly badgering the boy about when he’s going to make it sexual, while in his spare time giving Grandma pointers on how to use a bong.

Young auds who reflexively find this sort of flagrant transgressiveness amusing will no doubt take the picture to heart. But the problem with the script by Susser and David Michod, working from a story by Brian Charles Frank, is that Hesher’s uncouth behavior is so aggressively pushed to single-minded, crudely exploitative effect. The ending is meant to have made the ordeal all worth it, but while the payoff does possess a certain purgative effect akin to the benefits of tough love, the value of the journey for the audience, as opposed to the characters, is highly questionable.

Levitt, in a flamboyant about-face from “500 Days of Summer,” is undeniably charismatic as the from-nowhere wild man whom you’d never want to meet in real life, but who is memorable after a fashion onscreen. An appealing blond kid, Brochu holds his own and then some as he gets into innumerable physical and verbal scrapes.

Tech package is OK, with colors in the interiors overly subdued even for the sought-after mood.


Production: A Corner Store Entertainment presentation of a Last Picture Co. production with Handsomecharlie Films in association with American Work, Dreamagine Entertainment and Catchplay. Produced by Lucy Cooper, Matthew Weaver, Scott Prisand, Natalie Portman, Spencer Susser, Johnny Lin, Win Sheridan. Executive producers, Jonathan Weisgal, Wayne Chang, Aleen Keshishian, Annette Savitch, Scot Armstrong, Ravi Nandan. Co-producers, Aaron Downing, Rob Ortiz, Scott Kluge, Jeff Davis, Jay Rifkin, Ari Ackerman, Jay Franks, Happy Walters, Gina Kirkpatrick. Directed by Spencer Susser. Screenplay, Susser, David Michod; story, Brian Charles Frank.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, DV), Morgan Pierre Susser; editor, Michael McKusker; production designer, Laura Fox; art director, Charles Varga; set decorator, Jennifer Lukehart; costume designer, April Napier; sound, Lee Orloff; associate producers, Tom Pellegrini, Chase Mishkin, Israel Wolfson; assistant director, Sylvester "Chip" Signore; casting, Kim Davis, Justine Baddeley. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 22, 2010. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Hesher - Joseph Gordon-Levitt T.J. - Devin Brochu Paul Forney - Rainn Wilson Nicole - Natalie Portman Madeleine Forney - Piper Laurie

More Film

  • Jermaine Fowler'Buffaloed' premiere, Tribeca Film Festival,

    Jermaine Fowler Joins 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is joining Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the details of Fowler’s character. Kenya Barris, who [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

  • Max Landis Entertainment Weekly party, Comic-Con

    Max Landis Accused of Rape, Assault and Psychological Abuse

    Screenwriter Max Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories to the Daily Beast. Two of the women spoke on the record, and another five were identified by pseudonyms. An eighth women confirmed that she filed a police complaint against Landis in 2008, in which she [...]

  • Michael Fassbender'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' film premiere,

    Michael Fassbender to Produce, Star in Lionsgate Spy Thriller 'Malko'

    Michael Fassbender will produce and star in the Lionsgate spy thriller “Malko,” based on Gerard de Villiers’ S.A.S. series, with the studio planning to launch a franchise with the project. Eric Warren Singer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “American Hustle,” will write the screenplay. Joe Drake, chairman of [...]

  • American Film Institute Hires Susan Ruskin

    Susan Ruskin Appointed AFI Conservatory Dean

    The American Film Institute has named producer and educator Susan Ruskin as dean of the AFI Conservatory, where she will lead AFI’s graduate film-training program. Ruskin, who will also carry the title of executive VP, will report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, the organization announced Tuesday. She replaces producer Richard Gladstein, who left [...]

  • shanghai skyline China Placeholder

    Shanghai: Er Dong Pictures Adds to Web of Hollywood and Chinese Deals

    Chinese production and talent company Er Dong Pictures shed some light on its latest film investment slate and growing web of relationships in Asia and Hollywood. The company, which is in the process of establishing a joint venture with Hollywood talent firm The Gersh Agency, and has a 12-film co-funding deal with Starlight Culture Entertainment, [...]

  • Tony Hale Forky Toy Story 4

    'Toy Story 4': Tony Hale on the Joys of Voicing a Plastic Spork Named Forky

    The lastest plastic hero to join the “Toy Story” franchise is Forky, a disposable spork who has some serious qualms about being a toy. He comes to life in “Toy Story 4” alongside Woody and Buzz Lightyear, who teach him that he’s much more than trash. Tony Hale, the actor best known to audiences as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content