Quick Hits on Hesher – Spencer Susser (2011)

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-You always hear people complain that they wish Hollywood would make more original or at least different movies and when they do — as Hesher certainly is — no one goes to see it. Is it the most original? No, it fits into a lot of the indie tropes, but if you know what pitching backwards means, that’s what this film does. You get a backdoor curve when you’re expecting an inside fastball. In other terms, it zigs when it’s supposed to zag. Look, the simple fact is that there are too many movies produced each year, and they all cannibalize each other. To add to that, all of the taboo subjects are gone, so there are no more barriers to break down. We have to settle for filmic table scraps. (Probably forever, especially now that digital filmmaking is so readily accessible and easy to do. No one has to go into a room and impress a money man anymore, which was always decried because moneymen knew nothing about art, and they often didn’t after the corporate buyouts in the 60s and 70s [hate them if you will, the original bosses knew more about story than the entire collective of executives — and probably writers — do today]. But there had to be a vetting process at least. Now, there is nothing. Just get together and do it in spare time. It’s conflicting because the democratization of art is and was supposed to be a positive, but film was always a complicated, impure art form. The reason we have so few silent films was that no one considered film an art, something worth preserving, until much later.) Hesher cost a puny $7m to film and didn’t even break $500k at the box office on the star power of Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rainn Wilson. It died an obscure death. Even the Metallica fans stayed home.

-Speaking of Metallica, I was a big fan in my angsty teenage years and always like the idea that they never allowed people to use their songs in films or tv shows. When Paradise Lost — the HBO documentary about the three metalheads who didn’t get a fair trial for the murder of three younger boys — came out and they allowed the producers to use their songs for that, it was different (whether they are guilty or not, they did not get a fair trial). It was fine because there was an injustice there, something you only have to look at the cover of …And Justice for All to realize is an issue the band cares about. Here, it makes no sense outside of being on the radio in Hesher’s van. Mostly, it’s just layered in there to give off a glow of badassness that nothing about the film itself can really pull off straight. No matter how many badass roles Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets, I’m never going to be able to forget that he was DJ’s stuttering, annoying little friend on Roseanne or basically anything he did pre-Brick. I like him a lot as an actor, but at times it feels like a leap in logic. Here, they try and buy it with Battery and Harvester of Sorrow, but it doesn’t quite work for me. TJ’s bully is more intimidating.

-The other glaring issue with the film is this: Natalie Portman isn’t ugly. Come on, she just isn’t. Big 1980s glasses and a dollar store sweater don’t make her ugly. She isn’t mousy, she isn’t frumpy, she isn’t tomboyish. If rumors are to be listened to, she’s one of the most sexual creatures in Hollywood. I would buy a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge before I could buy this. I would buy a piece of the Moon before I would buy this.