In a way, Hesher reminds me of Kubrick's Lolita, in which Peter Sellers gives a typically varied comedic performance that takes up a lot of screen time in a story that does not at all require his services. You get the sense that Kubrick would have been better off trimming the Sellers footage and making it into a separate film, perhaps "The Pink Pantherphile" or something. Same deal with Hesher- Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a pitch-perfect, career-best performance as the ur-headbanger- a shittily tatted, long-haired pyromaniac who speaks in monosyllabic grunts and feels most at home clad only in his underwear on someone else's couch eating their cereal when he's not zooming around town in his souped-up van blaring "Battery". It is an instantly recognizable archetype, heightened to almost cartoon levels, but brought to life so effortlessly by a nigh-unrecognizable Levitt (Gordon-Levitt?) that one wonders why the fuck the filmmakers found it necessary to drop so awesome a character into so saccharine and unbearable a tepid family drama. I get the sense they were going for a sort of Visitor Q, "Teorema"-lite, the whole 'family in peril shaken out of their routine by enigmatic stranger' deal, only in this case instead of tit-milk orgies and homosexual dalliances with Terence Stamp we are treated to that guy with the big forehead from The Office looking stricken and miserable for two hours and one of the more grating child performances in recent memory.
Which sucks, because Hesher is an awesome character. Take for instance the scene where Hesher, chomping away at the dinner table, chastises TJ for not walking with his grandma by talking about how he heard about a "granny rapist" and proceeding to explain in graphic detail what being a granny rapist entails- hilarious! Or the scene where without rhyme or reason Hesher demolishes some random household's pool, throwing in all of the patio furniture and setting it ablaze, and since Portman is on hand during this it brings to mind the pool scene in Garden State, that sterile slice of linoleum masquerading as "indie" cinema, and in a way it's like Hesher is saying FUCK Garden State and fuck you, Ms. Portman, for producing THIS steaming pile, fuck Hesher, I want out. Dude has a horrible tattoo on his chest of a stick figure flipping the bird and blowing it's brains out! Hesher, the character, deserves a much better starring vehicle than Hesher the After School Special provides. By the time the finale rolled around, with Hesher the holy ghost to TJ's son and forehead guy's heavenly father pushing a coffin in slow motion as mood music blares on the soundtrack, I half prayed for Hesher, so vivid and malevolent and METAL, to flip the coffin over, grab the dead grandmother's corpse (oh yeah, SPOILER!) and drunkenly facefuck her, revealing himself to be the granny rapist, before cracking Dwight from The Office's bulbous dome like an egg and making TJ eat a piece of his cranial discharge, SATAN! But no, we are merely placated with the footnote of Hesher leaving behind "Hesher was here" in spray-paint on the roof of the house, har har, as TJ and dad look on all misty-eyed and appreciative and shit. What a waste.