Until Thursday, Sundance Film Festival watchers from afar could have been forgiven for concluding that the increased emphasis on art, rather than on commerce, in the festival offerings this year may have worked all too well. Many of the films making their debuts were wowing critics, but the money people appeared to be unimpressed, or at least not impressed enough to open their wallets. Or at least opening them too often.
I’m reluctant to add to what I suspect will be a critical pile-on against HESHER, at least based on the reactions after yesterday’s mobbed premiere at the Eccles Theater. But I’ll call it out only because its problems seem to be symptomatic. 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.
This is the kind of movie, all too common among rookie directors, that is so enamored of its cute concept — in this case, anarchist as grief therapist — that it never bothers to develop or explore that concept, or even test its basic plausibility.