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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Hesher

September 12th, 2011

Hesher - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Natalie Portman has had a busy year. Not only did she win an Oscar for Black Swan, but she's been in five movies this year. And after the screener for Thor arrives, I will have reviewed all of them. In fact, I will have reviewed her past seven films in a row going back to 2009's Brothers. Oh my god, I'm stalking Natalie Portman.

The Movie

The film focuses on the Forney family, who recently suffered a loss when the wife / mother died in a car crash. The father, Paul has slipped into a depression and is dependent on antidepressants. He's son, T.J., is refusing to let go too, as we see in the opening scenes of the film. And they are living with Paul's mother, Madeleine, who is elderly and her mind is not as sharp as it once was.

While riding his bike to school, T.J. takes a shortcut through a construction site, but crashes his bike. In anger, he throws something through the window of one of the unfinished houses and gets ready to leave. However, that's when he first encounters Hesher, who was squatting in that house. Hesher reacts violently to his front window being smashed in and drags T.J. Into the house. If it were not for a security guard driving by to check it out, T.J. could have been seriously beaten. As it is, he manages to get to school, only to see Hesher has followed him. While Hesher doesn't do anything to T.J. at school, Dustin does bully him by throwing him to the ground and spitting on his face. The next day, Hesher gets revenge on Dustin, by drawing a crude image on his car. Not surprisingly, this backfires when Dustin blames T.J. and he tries to run him over while T.J. is biking home. T.J. manages to avoid Dustin long enough to get to the supermarket parking lot and when Dustin tries to beat him up, Nicole, who is a cashier at the grocery story, intervenes. She offers to give him a ride home, but when they get there, he sees Hesher has followed them. ... and he's moved it.

Hesher manages to find himself at home, after threatening T.J. into covering for him. Paul is too zoned out on pills to get into a confrontation with Hesher, while Madeleine actually likes having him around. Hesher starts to become a bigger part of the Forney family, especially T.J. But is this a good thing? Or is this just one more obstacle they have to overcome to get back to normal?

I'm having trouble deciding if I liked this film or not. There are a lot of elements that worked for me, chief among those is the performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However, there was also a lack of realism in the film, again, chief among those is the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and how people react to him. The actor embraces all that is Hesher, but while this helps his performance, the end results in a character that doesn't fit into the world in a natural way. He's there and becomes part of the Forney household because it's what the script demands, not because that's what makes sense. Also, the sharp turnaround in the end and the dubious philosophical message felt artificial and trite. I don't think in the real world that would have been the end result of this family's encounter with someone like Hesher. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Devin Brochu do have good chemistry together, even if their relationship isn't exactly realistic.

I do appreciate the fact that the film deals with death and emotional sorrow in a way that doesn't devolve into mushy sentimentality and that isn't afraid to have an edge to it. I just think there could have been a way to have Hesher be a part of the story that made more logical sense. Perhaps if Hesher helped T.J. stand up to his bully from the beginning instead of causing more trouble, that would have alleviated that problem.

The Extras

Extras start with seven minutes of deleted scenes. Unfortunately, you can't pick which scene you want to watch. Next are is 28 minutes of Outtakes, but it is a mix of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage. Behind-the-Scenes is more of a making of featurette / interview featurette. Air Traffic is a two-minute featurette about a day of filming that was interrupted by a multitude of airplanes flying overhead. Finally, there's an image gallery with the Hesher's sketches.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare; however, while there are no exclusive extras, it does cost just $1 more, which is hard to beat.

The Verdict

Hesher earned mixed reviews, and that sums up my opinion of the film. There are parts that work, including the chemistry between the two leads and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's dedicated performance, but the actions of the main characters are too illogical for the end result to be fully satisfying. I think it is worth checking out, but for most a rental will suffice. If you are interested in buying the Blu-ray only costs $1 more than the DVD, and it is hard to argue with that price.

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Filed under: Video Review, Hesher