Before we discuss how brilliant Hesher is, let’s look at the odd way in which the UK version presents itself – what you see isn’t always what you get and the old ‘never judge a book by its cover’ rule certainly comes into play here. The logo of the movie apes the official Metallica logo, used with permission obviously as lots of the early band’s classics feature albeit briefly in the film. Yet the quotes claim the movie is “Hilarious!” and even stranger ‘Raw destruction and aggro comedy punctuated with a blast of crunching metal.’ Hmm, being a fan of Rainn Wilson and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt and liking Metallica, I was sold but the movie is nothing like what you expect.
Sure there is comedy here, but of a very savage type, sometimes you even wonder whether you should be laughing at the things going on. Also you are not quite sure who to cheer for. I mean, TJ the thirteen year old main character has your sympathy throughout, but Hesher, the character, comes across as both a guardian angel and a complete jerk. This is not a guy who is gonna swoop in and save the day, but he is one of the most real centrepieces in modern cinema and it is another stunning performance from Gordon-Levitt, who after this and 500 Days Of Summer and 50/50 is surely building up to an Oscar sweep on future years.
So we know what it’s not, but what is it? It’s a tragic vision of a family torn apart, drifting through anger, denial, and absolute rage, to try and survive the death of a wife and mother in a traffic accident. The father takes up prescribed medicine to dull the pain whilst TJ is completely alone and also dealing with being beaten up at school. And falling in love. Basically by the middle of the movie, you wouldn’t be surprised if TJ just put a gun to his head and ended it all, such is the darkness at the centre of the film. Hesher himself just turns up and starts living with TJ and the family, bonding with the spiky grandmother played brilliantly by Carrie’s Piper Laurie and confusing all with his strange behaviour. You might wonder why the father does not just chuck him out but by this point he (brilliantly portrayed by Wilson) is just lying on the settee drinking milk and hiding from the world.
Hesher might not be the comedy you were perhaps sold, but it will touch you and there are a number of tear inducing moments as well as scenes of real distress. It’s brilliant.
For a more realistic example of what you are getting into, check out the beautiful Danish cover. THIS looks like Hesher, but might not go down so well with The Kids…