Thursday, May 26, 2011

Odds and ends from the fringe

The talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the title character in Hesher, a quasi-realistic look at an obnoxious drifter who drops into the life of a troubled teen-ager (Devin Brochu). Having recently lost his mother in a car crash, Brochu's T.J. is emotionally vulnerable. He's also a victim of bullying at school. T.J.'s dad, a bearded Rainn Wilson, has so radically retreated from life, he barely talks. Piper Laurie shows up as the grandmother of a family on the verge of collapse. Natalie Portman, who needs some serious career advice despite her recent Oscar for Black Swan, plays a young woman who inadvertently steals T.J's tender heart. Although he's crude and inconsiderate, Hesher ultimately proves he can help a family that's dealing (or not) with overwhelming grief and loss. I'd say a better option would have been to call the cops the minute Hesher showed up. Maybe I'm thinking too literally. Still, Hesher feels too much like a strained attempt by director Spencer Susser to make a first feature with an attention-grabbing hook.


Comic Harry Shearer gets serious when it comes to New Orleans, where he lives part of the time. In The Big Uneasy, a carefully assembled -- if somewhat prosaic -- documentary, Shearer uses testimony from a variety of experts to show that the devastation of Katrina largely could have been avoided. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn't fare well in this concentrated look at the failure of flood-related infrastructure. I won't reiterate the contents of Shearer's documentary, but you would do well to see this worthy addition to the growing body of post-Katrina cinema.

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