Give me a thousand buckaroos and I couldn’t think of a tagline to sum up Hesher, aside from something along the lines of it being so gut achingly and simply ‘right’, I felt ‘so good it was bad’ after watching it. The producers managed well with ‘Sometimes life gives you the finger, and sometimes it gives you HESHER’; just when I needed a big kick up the ass and an ‘up yours’ Hesher stylee reality check, this film found me left me feeling really weird.
If you haven’t seen it, I would urge you to do so. It’s refreshingly hilarious, pacy and confrontational, a strong vision from director/ co-writer Spencer Susser who sent the script and a copy of his first short, (you can watch it here, it’s also pretty cool) to Natalie Portman. He then had her immediately jump on board as producer and actress.
Watch the film, and then take a little leaf from Hesher’s book. ‘You ever been skull fucked? Well would you like to be?’. I think the weirdness I just described was an urge to actually be Hesher. A female version, just as potty mouthed and swag, but not so frequently topless in public.
If you have seen it, then I’m sure you won’t mind reminiscing in its magnificence with me one more time. For, it’s a fucking glorious film, and the reason I’m reviewing it (or rather, shouting about it with a megaphone and clip board) is because not enough people have seen it. They really haven’t. It wasn’t even released in cinemas in the U.K, which is truly a damn shame, but it’s been out on DVD for a while now, alongside floating around the Hesherweb (sorry) in various legal/ illegal ways.
So, the story. There’s TJ, a little guy living with his washed out dad (Rainn Wilson) and super sweet granny (an impeccable Piper Laurie), all of them mourning the loss of his mother, who died in a car crash two months prior. The dad’s taken it badly, doped up on a trail mix of pharmaceuticals, sporting that wild eye n’ beard look and not really knowing what’s up, aside from a view of ceiling from the sofa he’s sleeping on all day. The granny is a tiny bit more switched on, and I fucking loved her; she was my granny through and through. Cooking up storms, espousing nuggets of wisdom but remaining similarly loopy and on the sidelines of reality as the dad.
Hence, the sudden placing of Hesher in their lives seemed to pass without so much as an eyelid bat from either of them. Granny does question him slightly, ‘Aren’t you a bit too old to be TJ’s friend?’ to which Hesher replies, ‘Who’s TJ?’. This all happens in a priceless scene whilst they are hittin’ a bong together, maybe half way through the film, so that it happens without the audience batting an eyelid either.
Now let me talk about our wow-tagonist Hesher just a little bit more. Portrayed exquisitely by the super I-want-his-babies-awesome Joseph Gordon-Lewitt (500 days of Summer… forgettabaahht-it), this is a dude who you want in your life, even just for the night (ladies ;p ). I actually read this description of him in a New York Times review,
‘This raging, foul-mouthed (LEGENDARY, GOD-LIKE) menace to society, whose sidelong glances send (SEXY) poisoned arrows, is a wiry, heavy-metal Tarzan, with shoulder-length hair and homemade tattoos, one of which is a hand with an extended middle finger (AND IT’S BIG AND RIGHT SLAP BANG IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS BACK).’
And quite liked how succinctly the critic dude managed to put it (although I have taken it upon myself to add the capital letter bits in brackets). The review overall totally slates the film, but if you read it once over and like me are under the age of 35 and love to get cray-zay now and then, everything he deems as totally unacceptable and unworthy of a film- ‘he douses an empty car with gasoline and explodes it with a lighted cigarette before roaring off in his van and leaving T. J. to take the heat. At another he heaves patio furniture into the swimming pool. His typical speech is an obscene rant’- I totally dig.
Natalie Portman is one of the movie producers, but she also stars in it as a depressed checkout girl who TJ gets a ‘first love’ crush on after she rescues him from a bully. One of my favourite bits of the film is where TJ is spying on her in the supermarket, and Hesher, in his usual fashion creeps up behind him whispering:
‘Do you think she shaves her pussy?’
Pure genius. TJ, freaking out, starts trying to walk away from Hesh, who follows him with that older embarrassing sibling steelo, shouting:
‘what you wanna poke her? Dude there’s nothing wrong with wanting to poke her. Dude, if you wanna poke her, there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t be ashamed. Human beings have been poking vagina for hundreds of years. Longer than that probably. BRO Seriously! There’s nothing wrong with wanting some pussy.’
I was lolzing so bad, not because of the naughty words, but just because of the attitude that Susser has managed to inject into this movie. It flits between being hilarious to heart breaking literally second by second, but it’s pulled off in a masterful way. It’s cinema at it’s finest, portraying the decay of real life and a way it can be handled and survived.
At points, I didn’t think Hesher was really there, but was perhaps a dark punk angel sent to TJ and his family to get them to buck up and smell the freshly mown grass. You never really know who he is, where he’s come from and where he’s looking to go. He just comes over and sets up camp in the family’s garage after TJ accidentally screws up his squatting arrangements, and then he’s with us for the rest of the ride. But, you do know, that he’s needed in the film, and you never ever question his presence because he’s just a blinding force with a purpose he believes, and you’ve got no choice just to go along with it.
Ultimately, I guess it’s a twisted parable, Hesher is an allegorical figure and real or not real, it doesn’t matter. He represents death for a while, and then he also represents life; moving into the house of a grieving family and wrecking havoc until they learn to deal with it (and him). I know that a lot of critics have had a problem with the ultimate simplicity of the film’s nature, but they can go to bed with their problems tonight and let go of their need for intellectual spider webs and complex analogies only they themselves can understand; that shit is inaccessible, and you’re an ass if that’s the only art you uphold.
Who cares if we don’t really know who Hesher is and don’t have his back story written down for us on a nappy, and who cares that he is representing the need for us as humans to live our lives to the max? We only got one of those, so I HEAR you Hesher, in all your scruffy haired, dirty mouthed, explosive loving glory. Plus, old skool Metallica and Motorhead pounding their way through the movie is no where near a bad move on Susser’s part.
Haters aside, I could gather not one (nerds) but TWO big parting thoughts at the film’s climax. I won’t spoil them for those who have not seen it, so I won’t write them on a nappy for you. I will urge you however, to go for a walk with your granny when she asks you to, even if you’re too busy jerkin’ off or catching up on Jamie’s Kitchen on 4od. The morals of the story, if you can call them that, hit some home truths back so hard, I cried like a small baby and I grew back my missing ball, along with a few extra super large and hairy ones for good measure (you’ll get what I mean when you watch it).
Watch the trailer here, and enjoy: