The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

How I saved Hesher from the bargain bin

with 19 comments

There is no sadder place for a movie to end its life than in the bargain bin in the supermarket.

Usually I just pass it, turning my eyes in a different direction. I can’t bear seeing all those labours of love, the dreams and ambitions that once were, in this shape. Ruled out as close to unsellable. Broken and tossed away like a piece of junk with a price tag equalling a chocolate bar.

Of course most of those movies are crap and nothing that I’d care for to own – not even if they gave it to me for free. They’d end up as dust collectors, nothing I’d want to invest my precious time in watching.

However there is always this chance that somewhere in that mess there’s a hidden gem, a movie that undeservedly is rotting away together with movies that it wouldn’t come near under other circumstances. At the film graveyard everyone’s an equal, regardless of the amount of festival awards or how it made on the box office.

So sometimes I stop at the miserable heap to make a quick dig-through. Perhaps I can find a movie interesting enough to be saved from the humiliation, a film that I can give a little bit of love, a viewing and a new home in my bookshelf.

Unimpressive cover
It was during one of those excavation sessions that I laid my eyes on Hesher. My spontaneous reaction was that this was not one of the movies that needed to get out of that bin.

The cover did very little to impress me. I’m sure that blogs and websites such as “Gordon and the Whale”, “Cinematical” and “Hollywood and Fine” are decent places. But when that’s the best sources you can come up with for selling quotes, it triggers my warnings systems.

Not to speak of the quotes! “Everyone , it would seem, needs a Hesher in their lives”. What kind of statement is that? But I understand why they cut it there and just there, because when I looked up this particular quote, at Hollywood & Fine, I found what came next:

“Everyone, it would seem, needs a Hesher in their lives. Although not necessarily “Hesher.” Though Spencer Susser’s dark comedy hangs in there for about half of its running time, it eventually runs out of ideas and goes soft, when it’s been hard-edged from the jump.”

No wonder they shortened the quote! Not that it managed to sell anything to me.

There was only one reason that made me decide to buy the film. His name is Joseph Gordon Levitt. On the cover he looks pretty ridiculous, dressed in a huge wig, with the intention to make him look like a heavy metal guy, but which rather makes you think of comedy and masquerades. But who cares? I knew that my 17 year old daughter with a crush wouldn’t. The happy smile she’d give me when I gave this to her would be worth far, far more than three bucks. Regardless if it was as crappy as the quotes indicated, I knew already that this was a bargain.

About Hesher
Hesher tells the story about a family in crisis, stuck in grief after the mother/wife has died in a car crash. One day a mysterious long haired guy named Hesher enters out of nowhere, becoming some kind of “friend” with the young boy in the family, T.J. Hesher does all sorts of things. In one scene he vandalizes the car of an obnoxious boy who has bullied TJ and you start feeling pretty good about him. He also has those nice little talks with T.J’s grandmother. But then he turns the other way round and behaves like an egotistical ass, not to be trusted. And you never get to know all that much about Hesher. He’s more like force of nature than a real person and sometimes I wonder if he actually exists at all or if he’s just a metaphor for… something, whatever.

Assuming that you don’t have a Joseph Gordon Levitt addicted daughter in your household, would I recommend you to dig out from the bottom of the sales bin to snatch a copy of this one? Well, to be honest it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not particularly good either. I happen to not have anything against indie quirkiness, but if you’re sensitive about such things, I suspect you might find it a little annoying.

Fair debut
The randomness of the Hesher character makes him fun to watch to begin with, but it also makes it hard to like him and all of this puts a distance between me and the grieving family. I can’t help comparing it to Rabbit Hole from last year, also about the grief after losing a family member. That movie went under my skin. The pain of the couple who had lost their son was real and heartbreaking. Watching Hesher I felt close to nothing since that Hesher guy was standing in the way.

I don’t want to be too hard on it though. This was a debut movie and I think the director did well enough to not only deserve to have his film rescued from the bin, but also to get the chance to make another one.

Hesher (Spencer Susser, US, 2010) My rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

May 23, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Hesher

19 Responses

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  1. I think 3/5 seems fair enough but I actually enjoyed it a fair bit. It was extremely flawed and perhaps it was just that it had a very good cast but it, I thought, was genuinely effecting at times and the Hesher character, while sometimes annoying, was used as a fairly interesting force of chaos and I really respected the way it rarely if ever backed off his pure id characterization.

    The blurbs anecdote is funny though. It’s odd to think that a movie that got some publicity coming out (if just for Natalie Portman and Joesph Gordon Levitt’s involvement) didn’t have SOMEone say anything nice enough to blurb for the cover.

    Ryan Tardiff

    May 23, 2012 at 1:57 am

    • I really liked Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance even if the wig looked a bit… odd. I think it was the script that didn’t quite work for me. I was surprised to find out that one of the writers is the director and writer of Animal Kingdom, which is one of the best movies I’ve seen over the last year.


      May 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

  2. Have not seen this one, but all the material I saw from it didn’t make me want to see it. I recently saw a trailer for it on TV and thought I’d have to give it a chance, because of both Levitt and Portman being in it.


    May 23, 2012 at 8:10 am

    • Portman has big ugly glasses. It doesn’t make her look ugly though. She has a very pointless character in the movie and frankly I have no idea of what the idea about her is. Perhaps they just wanted her name. Levitt is fine though.


      May 23, 2012 at 9:16 am

  3. I dunno about this one. I haven’t seen it and I love JGL but it didn’t appeal for some reason. Thanks for the fine review though my friend.

    • Thanks Scott. While it’s OK, I don’t think it’s essential to watch it.


      May 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

  4. I haven’t seen Hesher, but I can’t say I’m above watching films because of filmic crushes. One knows they have a problem when they start watching terrible films just for a two minute supporting role. And by one I mean me.


    May 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    • It’s not a problem. It’s totally charming and understandable. 🙂


      May 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

  5. I like Gordon-Levitt but even this one doesn’t really interest me that much.


    May 24, 2012 at 12:44 am

    • It’s for the fans I think. My daughter was enthusiastic about it.


      May 24, 2012 at 9:20 am

  6. I saw this one myself a while ago, and I largely agree with you, Jessica. Hesher really does get in the way, doesn’t he? He’s one of those characters who’s initially intriguing – I thought of him as a heavy metal Joker from Batman – but the focus is never on him, so there’s no pay-off for being interested in him. The film is really all about the grieving family, and Hesher himself only serves as a distraction. He’s too big a character for the movie. I also couldn’t help but feeling that, in the end, he didn’t solve any issues that he didn’t bring on himself.

    Still, not a bad film. A problematic one, but it still made for a fun watch.


    May 24, 2012 at 10:36 am

    • Joker, yeah. I associated him to the classic Swedish childrens book character named Karlsson. You know who he is, but foreign readers probably don’t… He is a little man who lives on the roof and has a propeller on his back so he can fly. One day he suddenly appears in the life of a boy, bringing quite a bit of chaos. He’s actually very unlikable and yet he’s somehow like some kind of weird hero in those novels. The difference was that Hesher couldn’t fly and was more into sex and drugs. But if it hadn’t been for that, the film was kind of childish.

      I too got a bit of fun out of it. I didn’t regret paying two bucks.


      May 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  7. This JGL fan sitting here feels the need to see this film. Just out of curiosity really.


    May 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    • I think you’ll enjoy it then. The character is annoying and the wig is horrible, but still… there’s no doubt that this is JGL!


      May 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm

  8. Great post as always, Jessica! I love the way you can make your readers (or at least me, hehe) relate to your movie-related experiences. I once saved an Alfred Hitchcock collection (including several feature-length films, shorts, even his earlier, silent work!) from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.


    May 27, 2012 at 2:44 am

  9. I enjoyed Hesher, though I agree that it is hardly a great movie. I also had a feeling that the character was imaginary, and I thought that perspective made the film more interesting. Definitely something for JGL fans.


    May 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    • Yes, I was never entirely sure of his existence. Though a lot of different people, including people outside of the family, recognizing him talked for that he actually was a physical person. But the ambiguity about it added something.


      May 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

  10. There’s a much better JGL crisis movie; it’s 50/50.
    However I liked Hesher because I was a metalhead in high school, and the character is more or less an anarchist derived from a Cliff Burton (original Metallica bassist killed in bus wreck) persona.
    The movie is uneven and not for everyone. The point is a catalyst or change agent and what is our own.
    I dig the anatomy speech too. Again, movie is wayyy out there. Solid write up.

    PS – congrats on LAMMY 2012 nod for Best New Lamb!


    June 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

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