Hesher, or “When indie tropes attack!”
OK so we went to see Hesher the other day full of indie hope and indie cheer. On a personal note I was hoping that it would be my Summer bolster against the worst effects of this year’s blockbusterdom: “Breathe, Jules, breathe… remember Hesher.”
Sadly and although the film has its moments of interest, although there are some solid performances to be found (at least in flashes), it falls into the trap of reifying quirk at the expense of story coherence. It does this by recasting the old indie fallback trope of the magic pixie (Natalie Portman in Garden State etc.) in the new guise of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s very random metalhead sociopathic angel.
Hesher is the story of a broken, grieving family ‘cured’ by their interactions with an eccentric, implausible and basically unknowable outsider and frankly the been there, done that police were knocking at the door well before the midpoint.
There is so much in the way of indie eating-the-cake-and-assuming-you-will-still-have-it-afterwards-ness in this overly familiar idea that it pulls the whole movie off track and condemns it to being an exercise in waiting for the next Hesher intervention rather than for the other characters to take charge of their destinies.
The figure of Hesher is little more than a device to allow the script to do whatever random stuff the writers want rather than what their characters need. He’s simply a plot convenience and it gets old fast. At the end, when Hesher takes grandma for a walk in her coffin in ‘significant’ slow motion I kept imagining I was in a rough cut screening with students: “Tell me you got a take of that at normal speed…”
This is Garden State for closet pyromaniacs. This is what happens when your stick figure tattoos metaphorically match the wallpaper.
This is, I’m sad to say, a mess.