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“Hesher,” Reviewed

“Hesher,” Reviewed (photo)

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Hesher is a strangely forgettable film, made even more strange since its final shot is of graffiti that reads “Hesher Was Here.” That’s not a spoiler – Hesher leaves an impression everywhere he goes whether he’s going to return or not. As played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he’s a nihilist who breaks into people’s houses to trash their backyard without reason yet abides by a moral code all his own, making it especially difficult for the 13-year-old TJ (Devin Brochu) to consider him a friend or foe.

For the sake of his father (Rainn Wilson) and his grandmother (Piper Laurie), TJ calls him a friend, though no member of the Forney family really knows why Hesher starts sleeping on their couch for days on end. TJ can only suspect it has something to do with accidentally stumbling into the stringy-haired drifter days earlier while trying to escape a schoolyard bully, and after suffering the loss of their matriarch, no one in the household can muster up the courage to kick Hesher out.

This contrivance gives Spencer Susser’s directorial debut its greatest strength and its biggest weakness as Gordon-Levitt is at the top of his game as the film’s titular character even if the film around him falls apart like so many ashes Hesher has left behind him. Hesher’s gravitational pull isn’t questioned as he heaves tables and sets fires, acts that the Forneys and their local ineffectual supermarket clerk (Natalie Portman), who also befriends TJ, only wish they could do in polite society. But Hesher, the film and the character, is defined by extremes, so having a strong center only magnifies what a dull world that’s created around him, insisted upon by Susser’s eternally sepia-tinged color palette and the characters’ eternal refrain from actually taking action.

Ironically, the foundation of the style here was also present in “Animal Kingdom,” the crime family saga made by David Michôd, one of Susser’s partners in the Blue Tongue Collective, the Australian group of filmmakers who are exciting thus far precisely because of their interest in upsetting the mundane. But Michôd, who is credited as a co-screenwriter on “Hesher,” had a far more interesting setting for his directorial debut, making a slow burn thriller where the outbursts of violence in an otherwise sedate tale of backroom manuevering worked as an interesting contrast to genre conventions, whereas when “Hesher” goes for the profound, it falls into the traps of indie quirk.

There are knowing nods in that direction – Hesher says at one point, “People always ask if I’m speaking in metaphors” after launching into an explanation of why he has only one testicle, and indeed, the testicle that’s gone missing could be an allusion to all the lost souls in “Hesher” with a missing piece. Unfortunately, by speaking around the truth, it feels like truth is absent from the film, an ambiguous search for meaning that disconnects from reality and never really creates a fully-formed alternative. There are lapses in logic — a subplot involving TJ’s interactions with a scrapyard dealer for his mother’s wrecked Volvo is one of the most glaring, and while it’s fun to see Hesher randomly pop up at any time as an apparition would, the lack of storytelling rules begins to drain the film of any narrative tension.

Besides squandering Wilson, who dealt with grief in far more intriguing ways recently in “Super,” “Hesher” is also a missed opportunity for its director Susser, a clearly skilled filmmaker with a sharp eye for composition and a potentially stronger one for observation. Little details sprinkled throughout the film, which gets fine performances out of nearly all its cast, suggest he understands the ripple effects of the smallest gestures – a gentle “whoa” from Portman’s Nicole as Hesher sets a diving board ablaze may be the film’s finest moment. But befitting of a story about a tempermental outsider, “Hesher” is wildly uneven, capable of a few whoa moments of its own when it isn’t getting lost in its cockeyed stab at spirituality.

“Hesher” is now open in limited release.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

ecoli-computer

IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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via GIPHY

We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

via GIPHY

The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

via GIPHY

They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

via GIPHY

Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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