"The world premiere of Hesher hit Sundance on Friday, and I do mean 'hit.'" ST VanAirsdale introduces Movieline's FAQ: "Joseph Gordon-Levitt's stringy-haired, chain-smoking, tatted-up anarchist title punk went trashing and crashing every situation pertaining to the film's young protagonist TJ (Devin Brochu). From invading the boy's school to moving into his house to working out his crushes, no scenario was left unturned. And then flipped. And possibly lit on fire."
"For the first half hour, Hesher feels like something special, mainly due to the performance of Gordon-Levitt and the quirks of the character he's playing," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "But Hesher's anarchic approach to life becomes less funny in the back of the movie (largely due to overuse), and Hesher's more nuanced, at times insightful study of loss all but disappears as the movie becomes increasingly silly and Hesher-centric." The film "has a mood and a comic sensibility that will strike some folks exactly right. Myself, I found it scattershot and undisciplined."
"Part lewd odd-couple dark comedy, part oversentimental examination of a grieving family, the film ends up feeling exceptionally disjointed and messy," agrees Peter Knegt at indieWIRE.
"I flat out loved Hesher," declares Quint at AICN. More from Eric Lavallee at ioncinema and Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times, where Mark Olsen reported a few days ago on director Spencer Susser's race to get the film completed in time.
Viewing. Twitch posts a "Meet the Artists" feature in which Susser "talks about the film and its genesis."
Updates, 1/24: "Despite its appealing cast, Spencer Susser's Hesher is not just familiar in its failings but weirdly comprehensive, practically a textbook of indie-film blunders and cliches," writes Dennis Lim at SUNfiltered.
"A more punkishly macabre sensibility might have erred on the side of, maybe, Harmony Korine," suggests the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "But, really, all the movie needs is life. Instead, we have the sense that the person who made it was born and raised at the Sundance Institute."
"Natalie Portman is just not believable as a grocery store cashier who can't get more than 15 hours of work a week," blogs Logan Hill at Vulture. "Even in granny glasses and ill-fitting shirts, she looks like a starlet on the L train... And it's probably too early to take Rainn Wilson seriously as a grieving dad. Still, something about this off-kilter, amped-up dreamscape works."
"Everything about the start of Hesher," finds IFC's Alison Willmore," is clever, strange and promising, which makes its eventual downhill gallop into becoming just another indie flick with a dirty mouth and a big, goopy heart of gold terribly disappointing. Not enough Visitor Q, too much Mary Poppins."
Update, 1/26: "Although he's not out to shock anyone, Susser deliberately throws in a bit more violence and abusive language than moviegoers expect from their quirky Sundance films about misfits," writes John DeFore in the Hollywood Reporter. "His movie has a heart, but (beyond some pretty broad cues to read its action as metaphor) doesn't want to spoon-feed anyone. Whether they appreciate that or not, moviegoers will have to admit the movie is true to itself."
Coverage of the coverage: Sundance 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).