Being a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cheeky charm and winning grin I’ve made a point to gradually watch all of his work that I can get my hands on, and this one is a pleasant surprise among the bunch. Revolving around TJ (Devin Brochu), a young man who has recently lost his mother and himself as well as his father (Rainn Wilson) are struggling to reconnect to the world, when Hesher (Levitt) shows up in their lives, and makes himself comfortable in their home. Hesher is a nomad of the modern generation, living wherever and with whoever he decides in that moment, with no rules or concept of normal society; which of course leads to some precarious moments but in the end his appearance is worth more than you’d think.As an audience most will be used to seeing Levitt play the nice guy, the sweet guy, the funny guy but never before will they have seen him play the out of control, long haired, crazy, violent, homeless guy covered in tattoos and frequently refusing to wear 50% of normal expected clothing. Occasionally we have seen Levitt stray from his norm (Looper, Don Jon, Killshot), but this one is definitely different, with a foul mouth and an oblivious nature to manners of any kind, Hesher is not exactly your usual house guest but Levitt plays him brilliantly, making you forget the adorable nature he usually shows and fully accepting him as a man with serious issues. Then there’s TJ who is played well by Brochu, the kind of deep emotion needed for the loss of a parent is not always convincingly shown by child actors, but in this case he does well. Next Rainn Wilson who is quite possibly the strangest actor I have ever come across in the thousands of films I’ve seen, but it works in his favour, and though this film for the most part does not ask a lot of him his performance is good.
Then there’s the women of this film, primarily Natalie Portman as Nicole, TJ’s crush, who may be known for her performances in Black Swan and the Star Wars prequels but her acting talent is just as well, if not better, seen in films like this, playing the down on her luck, ordinary girl. Portman is brilliant in this role, and it would be great to see her do even more films like this. Lastly is Piper Laurie playing Grandma, a role which realistically you wouldn’t expect much from given that she isn’t even provided with an actual name other than Grandma, but you’d be wrong. Laurie is absolutely brilliant in this role, which is actually one of the last since she hasn’t appeared again since 2012, but it is honestly wonderful and could easily be overlooked but should not be.
There have been other films that explore the idea of a stranger coming into the lives of people at a time in which they are struggling and gives them something that they don’t know they need. The entire idea of the film, a crazy violent man coming in and throwing everything up in the air at a time when a family is still grieving the loss of their matriarch, sounds highly peculiar but it works very well. The film is funny, strange, sweet and a little bit crazy but highly enjoyable with a fantastic script; but the more strange thing is its director, Spencer Susser who has made a fantastic film and yet disappeared back into short film and has yet to reappear into the feature world, which is a shame.
This is a must for fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a great choice even for those that aren’t, for a small indie and funny film.