Deus ex machina

Hesher doesn’t give a fuck.

He’ll break into your house, eat your food, throw things in your pool, and smoke cigarettes in your bathtub. He is a walking, breathing, head-banging manifestation of all that is vindictive and offensive in the world.

He falls out of the sky and into young TJ’s life. And so begins our film.

Within our protagonist’s home, despair is draped over worn furniture like a bad 70’s horror movie. TJ’s father, unable to sleep in the bed that his late wife shared with him, lies passed out and medicated on the couch. Meanwhile, TJ begs a car repairman for the smashed up car that claimed his mother’s life. But the car cannot be sold back, and TJ’s father cannot recover, no matter how many grief-counseling sessions he attends.

I find it interesting that the three central characters in this film, Hesher (Joseph Gorden-Levitt), TJ (Devin Brochu), and Nicole (Natalie Portman) all meet each other by means of violent conflict. Forced into one another’s lives unwillingly, their interactions become unusual and equally unsettling. This is where my problem with the film lies. With a story weighed down heavily by its depressing subject matter, we must rely on the characters to keep us emotionally invested. But they don’t deliver, and each scene seems to end on a more hopeless note than they one before it.

The question to be answered is why Hesher feels it necessary to become a new member of this random family. The film doesn’t answer this, nor seems to even make an attempt.

One scene, or portion of a scene, that I did take a liking too was at the end when TJ is walking through the junkyard amongst piles of wreckage searching for his mother’s car. I felt the aesthetics of this scene communicated a clear correlation between both visions of the director and cinematographer. The aim was to capture the havoc and destruction of young TJ’s life and to somehow show (not tell) the audience in a purely visual way.

Unfortunately, this moment of artistry is ruined when TJ does find the car, climbs inside, and experiences a flashback of the car accident. Why do we have to see the accident? Why can’t we stay with TJ in the car and watch as his emotions evoke the trauma he has suffered?

Overall, I think the story and the characters are here. What’s missing is an underlying purpose to drive the film forwards.

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