A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that HESHER is a very bleak, dark comedy/drama set in a grimy Southern California suburb, in some unspecified time near the present (there are no computers or cell phones on view). It deals with a grieving father and 13 year-old son after the death of the boy's mother. Into this family comes Hesher, a mysterious, long-haired metalhead with bad habits who eventually provides some perspective. The movie is filled with wall-to-wall foul language and graphic sexual innuendo (as well as some sexual images), and a somewhat negative attitude toward women. There is also some violence and general destruction, as well as cigarettes, beer-drinking, and pot-smoking. Nearly all of this occurs near or revolves around the 13 year-old. Parents should think twice before allowing any kids or teens to see this unsupervised.
What's the story?
After the death of his mother, 13-year-old T.J. (Devin Brochu) deals with his sadness and frustration by hurling a rock through a window of a construction site. This disturbs the squatter inside, Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who scares away the security guard by setting off a bomb. Not long after, Hesher moves into T.J.'s home, setting up residence with the boy's pill-popping father (Rainn Wilson) and doddering grandmother (Piper Laurie). Hesher proceeds with his old habits of listening to headbanger music, trashing things, setting things on fire, and watching porn. Meanwhile, T.J. befriends a poor, sad, waifish grocery clerk (Natalie Portman). Perhaps, hopefully, some of Hesher's influence will rub off in a good way.
Is it any good?
The movie boasts quite an astonishing performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In his feature directorial debut, Spencer Susser creates a deadpan, lost, grungy world -- the perfect place for a creature like Hesher to have evolved. At one point, Hesher tells a story about a mouse that's introduced into a snake's cage and survives. It's clear that this metaphor applies to Hesher himself, but he's still a mysterious, magnetic, repellent, and alluring figure, stomping around, defiant, shirtless, and shoeless, with his long, greasy hair swaying from side to side and crude tattoos on display.
In an ordinary movie, Hesher would eventually help the family through their grief, and they would help him become a better person, but this dark film doesn't go anyplace quite that obvious or comfortable. Yet the movie does have a point, and the T.J. character is so sweet and sad that he provides an emotional touchpoint for the viewer.
Talk to your kids about ...
What are the consequences of having 13-year-old T.J. be exposed to Hesher and his actions? What kind of effect does it have on him? How does he deal with his troubles? How does he deal with the bully at school?
What are the movie's messages? Are they clear amid the characters' behavior?
- In theaters: May 13, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: September 12, 2011
- Cast: Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson
- Director: Spencer Susser
- Studio: Newmarket Film Group
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent behavior, sexual content including graphic dialogue, pervasive language, and drug content - some in the presence of a child
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.