Everyone in this movie sucks.
Twelve-year-old TJ has recently lost his mother in a car accident. He and his father (Rainn Wilson) move in with TJ’s grandmother (Piper Laurie) and distance themselves as they struggle to cope with the loss, each in his own way. TJ’s life is further complicated by bully trouble at school and his crush on Nicole (Natalie Portman), a cashier at a local supermarket.
On his way to school one day, TJ crashes his bike while taking a shortcut through a construction site. Angry, he chucks a rock through the window of a seemingly uninhabited structure, which just so happens to be the makeshift home of Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Hesher begins pestering young TJ, following him to school and throwing things at him. Soon enough he invites himself into TJ’s grandmother’s home and into their lives against their wishes. He is vulgar, obnoxious, slovenly, he farts, he watches porn in the living room, he walks around in his tighty-whities, he listens to heavy metal music, he blows things up, and every other word out of his mouth is Fuck. Hesher has a giant FUCK YOU tattoo on his back, which pretty much sums up his character. He does what he wants regardless of the consequences or social stigmas that accompany his actions.
Everyone in this movie sucks. TJ is an emotionally detached, passive aggressive, socially inept pushover who allows himself to get beat up by bullies. The bully who beats him up sucks. Even the actor playing the bully sucks (seriously though, this is the worst bit of acting I’ve seen in a while). TJ’s dad sucks. He lays around the house all day sleeping, pops pills nonstop and goes to support groups for families who have lost loved ones. Nicole sucks. She can’t even afford to pay her rent or car insurance and bursts into tears when she gets so much as a parking ticket. As for our title character, I initially took Hesher for some sort of misunderstood miscreant, a sheep in wolf’s clothing if you will, with some deeper purpose to everything he says and does, but for the most part he’s just a despicable selfish asshole. The only character with any sort of redemptive qualities is the grandmother, who draws striking similarities to the grandmother in Grandma’s Boy, even smoking weed with Hesher.
Despite his rather unorthodox behavior, Hesher manages to help the family cope with their loss by making them realize that even though they lost a loved one, at least they still have each other. I know I said he’s a despicable selfish asshole, and for the most part he is. But maybe, somewhere deep down inside, there is an inkling of decency in him.
The performances are excellent as always (except of course for the aforementioned bully, played by Brendan Hill, probably most recognizable for his role as the Secretary of Energy in Idiocracy). Even Rainn Wilson delivers a surprisingly decent performance, though I had trouble at first taking him seriously, given his typical comedic roles. It helps some that he sports a full beard for the majority of the film, making him not so instantly recognizable.