(director/writer: Spencer Susser; screenwriters: David Michod/based on the story by Brian Charles Frank; cinematographer: Morgan Susser; editors: Michael McCusker/Spencer Susser; music: Francois Tetaz; cast: Piper Laurie (Grandma), Rainn Wison (Paul), Natalie Portman (Nicole), Joseph Gordon-Levitt(Hesher), John Carroll Lynch (Larry), Devin Brochu (TJ), Brendan Hill (Dustin), (), (); Runtime: 106 ; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Spencer Susser/Win Sheridan/Matthew Weaver; New Market Films; 2010)

A quirky film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This droll indie dramedy is the directorial debut for Spencer Susser. He co-writes it with David Michod. It’s based on the story by Brian Charles Frank. The quirky film is served well by its great cast, but not enough to impress me that it had any depth.

It offers an exploration of a dysfunctional family and tells how they deal with grief. The embittered 13 year-old T.J. (Devin Brochu) throws a rock through the window of a construction site after his mom’s death in a car crash. His pill popping dad Paul (Rainn Wison) goes into a shell and does nothing. While his daffy granny (Piper Laurie), living with them, tries to cope the best she can but loses hope trying to hold this despondent family together.Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a homeless anarchist, looking like Charles Manson, whose body is covered with violent tattoos. He was living at the construction site, who is now forced to leave but before leaving tosses a bomb. Before you can even think about what’s going down,

Hesher moves into the kid’s place and refuses to leave as he makes the garage his home. The freak listens to heavy metal, watches porn, sets things on fire and acts as a potty-mouthed dick who is neither a friend or a foe. When the sad sack grocery clerk at the shopping center, Nicole (Natalie Portman), prevents an older teen from beating the bullied at school TJ, they bond and become friends. Her ambition is to get the store to give her more hours.

What everyone else wants in this enigmatic film is a mystery, as the director rolls with the mystery and never gets under any character’s skin except to show their flaws. By the time the end credits roll around, it seemed like an empty acting exercise where abstract reasoning, bleakness and posturing rule day. It’s a film that needed much more than a pointless energetic performance by the titled character to impress.

REVIEWED ON 9/21/2017 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/