Spencer Susser and co-writer David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”) present a therapy-themed drama supplemented with comic and sentimental notes. People-in-pain will inflict fixes on one another, absent medical supervision. Susser explains his title as slang for “a diehard heavy metal enthusiast,” and says he knew one like Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Inception,” “Mysterious Skin,” “Brick”). Shirtless and sporting crude stick-figure antisocial tattoos, this feral transgressor is “a mystic fool,” says Gordon-Levitt. Hesher squats in an unfinished house in a development project and is seen around the local high school. Soon he turns home invader of sorts. He forcibly invites himself to stay with 13-year-old TJ (Devin Brochu), TJ’s depressed on-the-couch dad (Rainn Wilson) and TJ’s doddering grandmother (Piper Laurie). It’s two months after TJ’s mom died in a car crash, as detailed a series of pointless flashbacks, and this is one gloomy household. Hesher, however, is a micro-climate of chaos who undertakes a healing mission. The forecast is questionable. He must grasp the dysfunctional heart more firmly than other organs: “Human beings have been poking vaginas for hundreds of years, maybe longer,” he opines at one point. TJ develops a crush on a young supermarket clerk (Natalie Portman) and will compete for her with his new mentor. The menu of hurts that will heal borders on absurd, but this fable of the monstrous trespasser is prescribable. With John Carroll Lynch, Lyle Kanouse, Brendan Hill, Audrey Wasilewski, Frank Collison, Paul Bates. 105m. (Bill Stamets)
“Hesher” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.