TJ’s (Brochu) mother has recently died and he and his father aren’t coping with the trauma very well. TJ gets bullied every day at school while his father (Wilson) lies on the couch in a drunken stupor. TJ randomly becomes acquainted with Hesher (Gordon-Levitt), a socially-retarded, incompetent heavy metal fan who moves into their garage uninvited. Along the way, both TJ and Hesher fall for Nicole (Portman), a strapped-for-cash cashier at the local supermarket.

This is undoubtedly a depressing film. Its palette overflows with beige: TJ has a perma-scowl etched on his face, Nicole constantly moans about her life and Hesher swears a lot. Everybody’s just so angsty. Then again; this would have all been ok had the film not been so pretentious. Hesher has long dirty hair; chain smokes and owns a beat up old van where he blasts metal music as loud as he can.

He also enjoys blowing stuff up for no apparent reason and saying the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times. Everything about Hesher seems perfectly calculated to have him seem edgy, from the way he dresses to the things he says right down to his tattoos. He has two really crude tattoos, one on his back and the other on his chest. The former is a giant middle finger while the latter is a stick man blowing his brains out of his head. Do you get just how edgy this guy is? Hesher is a caricature of a 12-year-old’s concept of rebellion that honestly just comes across as kind of loco.

The actors do a good job for the most part but any acting attempts are wrecked by the script. Some of Portman’s lines in particular are mind-bogglingly awful. They just don’t sound like anything a human would say; especially one as awkward as the character that she plays. It’s interesting to see Gordon-Levitt play a character so far out of his comfort zone, and it’s to his credit that Hesher comes across as rather mentally unstable as opposed to solely a mash-up of everything that could possibly be construed as edgy.

A main problem here is that you don’t really have anybody that you can root for. Hesher is thoroughly unlikeable and Nicole just comes across as rather self-absorbed. TJ is the most sympathetic character because his situation is just so terrible; but at the same time there’s something rather repulsive about him. You pity him but that doesn’t mean that you can like him or root for him.

In addition, after setting up a certain tone, the film takes a jarring turn towards the end that results in Hesher and TJ’s dad undergoing character changes that seem very forced and artificial. Luckily, the soundtrack is the film’s saving grace; particularly if you happen to be a metal fan. The snippets of Motorhead and Metallica make it a little bit harder to completely dislike an already very disagreeable main character and by extension, the film itself.