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Hesher (Blu-ray Review)

So imagine the heavy metal version of Calvin and Hobbes and you have something close to resembling Hesher, a strange sort of drama that features a tornado of destruction, in the form of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who enters the life of young TJ, a boy still grieving the loss of his mother.  Hesher is definitely the product of independent cinema and it is a strange blend of many different qualities that still have me questioning whether I truly enjoyed this film as whole or just aspects of it.  Fortunately, as opposed to going through some kind of aggro rage bender like Hesher would, I can simply work out my thoughts through the process of reviewing this Blu-ray.  Continue on to see where I ended up with this very warped version of a buddy film/family drama.

Film:

So Hesher is a bizarre sort of story. Our main character is TJ (Devin Brochu), a young boy who is grieving the loss of his recently deceased mother. TJ’s father Paul (Rainn Wilson) sits at home on the couch, staring into a TV, unshaven and detached from the world. They live with TJ’s grandmother (Piper Laurie). With little understanding of how he should deal with his problems, TJ attempts to maintain possession of a damaged car (the history of this car you can work out for yourself), before being pushed away from it. During an angry moment, TJ lashes out at a random, unoccupied building. He throws a rock through the window and out comes Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Hesher is a long-haired, dirty, obscene lover of heavy metal who appears to do whatever he wants. In seeing TJ, he suddenly becomes involved in his life, mostly causing mischief that has an effect on TJ in mostly a negative sense. Hesher acts as a personal tormenter for TJ, eventually taking up residence in his home. Paul has no strength to kick Hesher out, so Hesher with all his rage and tattoos continues to live in the garage.

Meanwhile, TJ has no real joy coming from anywhere in his life. In school he is constantly bullied by one particular menace named Dustin. This eventually leads to a fight in a parking lot, which is broken up by Nicole (Natalie Portman). TJ develops a bit of a crush on Nicole, who continues to sort of hang out with TJ, even as Hesher makes his presence known as well. The film follows various threads, mainly dealing with TJ and his family, with Hesher serving as possibly the worst cure-all for grieving possible.

There was a good twenty minutes of this movie, once Hesher became a known presence, that I was really considering the fact that his character was imaginary. I was wrong; Hesher is completely real and is so much of a larger than life character that it both provides for the best and worst aspects of this film. While I have issues with the movie because of Hesher and how the film utilizes him, it is not due to how Gordon-Levitt plays the character. He is pitch-perfect as this obscene, out-of-control presence that serves to disrupt normality. I only wish this film had more focus.

It becomes incredibly tough to understand what this film is going for. Hesher, at times, is intensely dramatic, darkly comedic, or desperately working to be a heavy metal version of an arthouse indie film. There is a lack of consistency that may be fitting from the point of view for Hesher, but not for me, as a viewer. The various story elements and characters involved in this film do not make for one that is fittingly put together. Dealing with heavy issues like the death of a parent and mixing it with loud guitar riffs, screaming children, and Hesher’s crazy sensibilities is fun to say in an abstract brain storming session, but very difficult to watch as a full-length feature.

Now, with all of that said, I still sort of got into it. I would have to say it is mainly due to the actors involved and some individual sequences that are genuinely great to watch. I have already mentioned Gordon-Levitt, but he is really great at sticking with this character. Equally impressive is young Devin Brochu, who has to go through a great deal of emotions in order to completely sell his role and he does accomplish this quite well. Portman is pretty much a fish-out-of-water here, as it is hard to picture a women like here in a role like this (hey, she has glasses! She must be a loser too!), but still does what she can. Rainn Wilson is another standout. Similar to a role like the one he has in Super, I am really starting to hope Wilson gets more dramatic work to be in. He has that sort of gift as a man generally known for comedic roles that can do a lot with dramatic materials simply by reacting to a situation.

While Hesher is a dark film that bounces all over the place due to its energy, performances, story beats, and overall attitude, it has a lot of elements that make it watchable. Despite its lack of consistency in tone, I got into many moments of it and can overall say that it is an interesting watch. It is unlike a lot of films you will generally see, simply because it takes a very old story and injects a fireball into it to bounce around a lot of mayhem. Watch if you’d like, but beware the high voltage.

 

Video: 

The Blu-ray disc for Hesher is presented in 1080p widescreen. For a little indie flick, Lionsgate has done a good job at handling the vivid picture presentation for this film. The film is probably spending the majority of time within daylight hours and due to this, the film boasts a lot of solid natural lighting that looks quite good in this format. Indoor and nighttime scenes mostly look great too, with the black levels standing up to the task for the most part. It is a good transfer that puts a nice amount of emphasis on its natural lighting for the sake of nicely scene colors and textures throughout.

Audio:

I guess that given the type of soundtrack this film wanted to have, including the various explosions of guitars at various moments, it is fitting that this Blu-ray comes equipped with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Along with Hesher exploding on screen at various moments, he does have a tendency to blow things up himself, which is once again served well on this disc, as it sounds great in the surround sound format. The dialogue prominently featured throughout this film (mainly in loud screaming bouts) also comes across very clear throughout. It is a very good mix, which serves the film well as far as getting a great sound experience.

Special Features:

This is a strange set of extras (fitting of the film I guess), because the longest feature is the outtakes, which runs for nearly half an hour. Everything else pales in comparison, but at least it is all presented in HD. Features include:

Deleted Scenes – a few nice extra moments

Outtakes – lots of screaming and blown takes

Behind the Scenes – short, but some insight

Hesher Sketch Gallery

Air Traffic – attempting to film scenes, despite airplanes flying overhead

Teaser Channels

Trailers

Final Thoughts:

I will just take this time to thank my friend Drew for giving me the Calvin and Hobbes analogy. It is a perfect way to describe the strange feelings I have towards this film. Even the recent FX series Wilfred came to mind when thinking about Hesher, given that his presence seems so out of place and larger than life; however he is very much real, which makes it a bit different. Regardless, this is a bizarre kind of movie that has many elements that make it somewhat enjoyable. I just wish it wasn’t so all over the place. At least the disc is quite good in terms of picture and audio. While it is a bit lacking of extras, there is still some stuff to get out of them as well. An interesting flick for sure and one that is not to be taken lightly.

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So Hesher is a bizarre sort of story. Our main character is TJ (Devin Brochu), a young boy who is grieving the loss of his recently deceased mother. TJ’s father Paul (Rainn Wilson) sits at home on the couch, staring into a TV, unshaven and detached from the world. They live with TJ’s grandmother (Piper Laurie). With little understanding of how he should deal with his problems, TJ attempts to maintain possession of a damaged car (the history of this car you can work out for yourself), before being pushed away from it. During an angry moment, TJ lashes out at a random, unoccupied building. He throws a rock through the window and out comes Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Hesher is a long-haired, dirty, obscene lover of heavy metal who appears to do whatever he wants. In seeing TJ, he suddenly becomes involved in his life, mostly causing mischief that has an effect on TJ in mostly a negative sense. Hesher acts as a personal tormenter for TJ, eventually taking up residence in his home. Paul has no strength to kick Hesher out, so Hesher with all his rage and tattoos continues to live in the garage.

Meanwhile, TJ has no real joy coming from anywhere in his life. In school he is constantly bullied by one particular menace named Dustin. This eventually leads to a fight in a parking lot, which is broken up by Nicole (Natalie Portman). TJ develops a bit of a crush on Nicole, who continues to sort of hang out with TJ, even as Hesher makes his presence known as well. The film follows various threads, mainly dealing with TJ and his family, with Hesher serving as possibly the worst cure-all for grieving possible.

There was a good twenty minutes of this movie, once Hesher became a known presence, that I was really considering the fact that his character was imaginary. I was wrong; Hesher is completely real and is so much of a larger than life character that it both provides for the best and worst aspects of this film. While I have issues with the movie because of Hesher and how the film utilizes him, it is not due to how Gordon-Levitt plays the character. He is pitch-perfect as this obscene, out-of-control presence that serves to disrupt normality. I only wish this film had more focus.

It becomes incredibly tough to understand what this film is going for. Hesher, at times, is intensely dramatic, darkly comedic, or desperately working to be a heavy metal version of an arthouse indie film. There is a lack of consistency that may be fitting from the point of view for Hesher, but not for me, as a viewer. The various story elements and characters involved in this film do not make for one that is fittingly put together. Dealing with heavy issues like the death of a parent and mixing it with loud guitar riffs, screaming children, and Hesher’s crazy sensibilities is fun to say in an abstract brain storming session, but very difficult to watch as a full-length feature.

Now, with all of that said, I still sort of got into it. I would have to say it is mainly due to the actors involved and some individual sequences that are genuinely great to watch. I have already mentioned Gordon-Levitt, but he is really great at sticking with this character. Equally impressive is young Devin Brochu, who has to go through a great deal of emotions in order to completely sell his role and he does accomplish this quite well. Portman is pretty much a fish-out-of-water here, as it is hard to picture a women like here in a role like this (hey, she has glasses! She must be a loser too!), but still does what she can. Rainn Wilson is another standout. Similar to a role like the one he has in Super, I am really starting to hope Wilson gets more dramatic work to be in. He has that sort of gift as a man generally known for comedic roles that can do a lot with dramatic materials simply by reacting to a situation.

While Hesher is a dark film that bounces all over the place due to its energy, performances, story beats, and overall attitude, it has a lot of elements that make it watchable. Despite its lack of consistency in tone, I got into many moments of it and can overall say that it is an interesting watch. It is unlike a lot of films you will generally see, simply because it takes a very old story and injects a fireball into it to bounce around a lot of mayhem. Watch if you’d like, but beware the high voltage.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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