Hesher is a 2010 film starring Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, Natalie Portman and Piper Laurie.Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the title character Hesher, a metal-loving drifter who inexplicably inserts himself into the lives of young TJ (Devin Brochu), his father Paul (Rainn Wilson) and Madeleine (Piper Laurie), TJ's grandmother and Paul's mother. The family is reeling after the tragic loss of TJ's mother/Paul's wife, who appears in a flashback scene to explain how she died. Also in the mix is Nicole (Natalie Portman), a grocery store cashier who TJ and Hesher befriend to various degrees.The film is notable for its selection of Metallica songs that serve as Hesher's Leitmotif, as well as the "lightning curve" font of the original Metallica logo being used in movie posters and on the DVD/Blu-ray cover.
Tropes present in this film are:
- Anti-Hero: Hesher weaves in and out of this trope.
- Beard of Sorrow: Paul wears one throughout most of the film, but shaves at the end to indicate he's come to terms with his wife's death. He is clean-shaven in the flashback dream of her death.
- Hopeless Suitor: It's implied that TJ has a crush on Nicole. He does not take it well when he discovers her and Hesher having sex.
- Literal-Minded: Played with. Hesher sets a diving board on fire and then sings to himself, "Jump in the fire!", referencing the namesake Metallica song.
- Metal Head: Hesher.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer made the film look more like a comedy, when it was a drama all along though not really a straight drama as many scenes involving Hesher are played for laughs. Hesher is also a Decoy Protagonist.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: According to Word of God, the character of Hesher is loosely based on deceased Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. Director Spencer Susser would send video clips of Cliff Burton to Joseph Gorden-Levitt so that he'd know how to act.
- No Name Given: The following is not revealed in the film: Hesher's real name, what the initials "TJ" stand for, Nicole's last name, TJ's mother's whole name, or the bully that torments TJ throughout the film (not Hesher). The grandmother's name is not revealed until the end of the film.
- TJ is presumably an abbreviation of his first name and middle name, since he's called "Thomas" by the police when he's fingerprinted for arson.
- Playing Against Type: YMMV on this. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has played a variety of roles. Rainn "Dwight Schrute" Wilson is not known for drama films. Natalie Portman did a similar understated role in Garden State.
- Protagonist Title
- Refuge in Audacity: A lot.
- TJ, who is probably 11 or 12, swears more than what most people would tolerate in real life. His father doesn't bother to reprimand him on his swearing.
- Hesher attempts to convince TJ to go walking with TJ's grandmother so that the grandmother wouldn't get raped.
- Hesher taunts TJ for TJ's crush on Nicole, who is closer to Hesher's age than TJ's.
- TJ breaks into the bully's house and threatens to cut off his toes with rusty pruning shears.
- Retro Universe: It's unclear in what year this movie takes place (the grandmother does have medical marijuana, and legalization of marijuana for medical purposes is something that's only started happening fairly recently). But the music, dialogue, and clothing styles make it feel like it's set in either the late 1980s or the early 1990s.
- Shout-Out: This film has several shout outs to Metallica. The logo for the film looks like the classic Metallica logo, Hesher shouts "jump into the fire!" in one scene (referencing the Metallica song of the same name), and the song he plays on his bass is Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth). In fact, Word of God has said that Hesher's mannerisms are based on late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hesher gives one at the end of the film during Madeleine's funeral that he also uses to criticize himself.