Young T.J. recently lost his mother in a car accident. His father Paul (The Office‘s Rainn Wilson in his third indie role of the year following Peep World and Super) isn’t coping well and his absent-minded grandmother (Piper Laurie) is simply confused. Enter the mysterious Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a shirtless metalhead covered in bad tattoos with an attitude to match. Hesher barges into T.J.’s house one afternoon and simply never leaves. They establish a bond of sorts as T.J. is taught the way of the world, or at least the way of Hesher’s world. Drugs are smoked, scores are settled, and general destruction reigns as T.J. struggles to hold onto his innocence while faced with a madman in a mad world.
I don’t know where this movie came from, but it’s possibly one of the most metal films ever made (and I’m not one to use “metal” as an adjective). Director/co-writer Spencer Susser has created an accurate portrait of that glue sniffin’, rape van drivin’, scrawny-yet-frightening metal kid that every high school fears. Gordon-Levitt completely disappears into his role as the titular nihilist, an aggressive kettle of energy that may boil over at any given moment. Some critics are calling it a one-note performance, but I see it as a completely different side of a young actor who is truly strutting his stuff. Natalie Portman does her thing as T.J.’s grocery store clerkin’ object of affection, but the time spent with her is much less interesting than the relationship between the guys. Susser’s tale teeters on the edge of convention at times, but never feels cheap or inauthentic. The film has attitude even at its sweetest…and the ending, though predictable by some, is pretty damn sweet.
Hesher opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.