Poor T.J. (Devin Brochu). The quiet preteen’s mother just died in a car accident, he’s being bullied at school, and his father (Rainn Wilson) is so depressed that he can barely rouse himself from the couch. Into T.J.’s world of despair comes Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a volatile, semi-homeless stoner and metalhead who shows up at T.J.’s house one day and just never leaves.
Hesher turns out to be some sort of belligerent self-help guru, at least in the way he pushes T.J. and his father to confront their grief and pull themselves out of a downward spiral. Although it piles on too much misery and too many overdetermined moments of clarity toward the end, Hesher is funny and off-kilter without being cloying, and Gordon-Levitt gives an appealingly unpredictable performance. It teeters on the edge of indie-quirk overload, but Hesher maintains equilibrium most of the way through.