Alex's Sundance 2010 Review: Spencer Susser's Hesher
by Alex Billington
January 23, 2010
Going into the Sundance Film Festival, Spencer Susser's film Hesher was one of my most highly anticipated films. I had seen writer/director Spencer Susser short film I Love Sarah Jane previously (watch it here) and loved it. I was hoping to discover that his first feature film was also as exceptional as that short, especially with a cast that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, and Rainn Wilson. Unfortunately it didn't meet my expectations. And the more I think about it, the less I like the film. The best part about it is that Gordon-Levitt is totally crazy in an awesome way and plays a character that I've never seen him play before.
Hesher follows the story of a boy named T.J. (Devin Brochu), a loner who hates the world, and his father Paul (Wilson) who are still both grieving from the death of T.J.'s mother / Paul's wife. It kicks off with T.J. chasing after the car that his mother was in when she died on his bike. He's bullied by an older kid at school and doesn't have much of a life. One day he comes across Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) a crazy hard rock badass with long hair, no shirt, tattoos, and a doesn't-give-a-shit-about-anything-or-anyone attitude. He follows T.J. home and starts staying in his house without permission, becoming both is tormentor and mentor.
While that concept may sound interesting on paper, unfortunately the story doesn't really go anywhere. Eventually T.J. meets and befriends a supermarket worker named Nicole (Portman) but nothing really happens with that friendship either. In essence, we just watch Hesher kick everyone's ass for 90 minutes (and I mean everyone). Sure, he helps T.J. beat up the kid who bullies him at school, but Hesher never really changes as a person. He's the same asshole from beginning to end having hardly any impact on the family (at least until the end). T.J.'s story wasn't all that interesting either and the rest of it was just lackluster.
I'm hoping Spencer Susser can do a better on his next few features (including a feature length version of I Love Sarah Jane), but I wasn't that impressed with Hesher. It was a bit too dull and needed a lot more polishing, both on writing and directing. But I will say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is awesome and he does bring some good entertainment to the film. I don't think it's worth going out of your way to see.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 6 out of 10