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Film / Hesher

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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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Hesher's response to TJ being forced to eat a urinal cake by a bully? Head over to the bully's house and set his car on fire.
  • 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. This is played with though in the sense that it's 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.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Refuge in Audacity: A lot.
    • Hesher walking up to the scene of an accident and telling the person who was hit that he backed into Nicole's car.
    • 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 only things tying it into the modern age are the grandmother's medical marijuana, modern cars in the background of some scenes, and the one Motörhead song in the movie which was released in 2008. Aside from that, the technology, clothing styles, and dialogue all give it a late-80's/early 90's feel to the film.
  • 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 guitar 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.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: 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.
    • However, you could explain this away by the fact that he’s suffering from the loss of his mother. He simply doesn’t care about behaving properly, especially considering none of the adults in his life do anything to curb his behavior. It’s highly likely that he wouldn’t have acted in such a way if his mom was still around.