The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Hello Herman | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Hello Herman

Examination of the events that follow a school shooting.

Directed by: Michelle Danner
Starring: Norman Reedus, Garrett Backstrom, Martha Higareda

Herman Howard (Backstrom) is your normal 16-year-old. An awkward, shy, computer literate, games obsessive who, after years of torment and bullying, makes the fateful decision to come to school heavily armed and enact a most horrible revenge on those who wronged him. Before his arrest he has emailed blogger Lax Morales (Reedus) with a video of the shooting asking him “ tell my story on your show”.  Thus begins an exploration of gun culture and the psyche of America that caused these tragic events and society's thirst for vengeance under the cover of justice.
This is a very difficult and challenging film. One that could not be more current at the moment with its subject matter of televised murder, gun massacres and what constitutes terrorism when it is perpetrated at home by citizens of your own country. It's a subject that requires a deft touch to avoid accusations of opportunism and exploitation and for the most part Danner succeeds as a director, getting great performances from her leads and employing a cold geometric shooting style that never overwhelms the story. Kudos also to Jeff Beals' jazzy score which is evocative of Mark Isham's work with Alan Rudolph.
At its best when played as a two-hander with Morales and Howard teasing out the justifications and the implications of his crimes, less so in it's attempts at satire with thinly disguised attacks on Fox News and a Sarah Palin caricature in Senator Joan Cox (Christine Dunford). If the direction is fluid it is the script that slightly disappoints. By setting this slightly in the future, John Buffalo Mailer has increased the hysteria a notch. We have Senators urging for televised executions of a minor, a world in which bloggers are viewed as celebrities and not social miscreants venting their spleen through a keyboard. In fact Buffalo's script is so eager to throw every possible glib rationale for the shooting into the story that it almost turns into a who's who of conservative media targets. Computer games, violent films and single parenting are all tossed in with abandon. Calling one of your main character Lax Morales = Lacks Morals meant this was never going to be the most understated of arguments and the fleshed out back story involving Morales' undercover involvement with a Neo Nazi group, which ends in tragedy for one youth, is meant to create some symbiosis between Lax and Herman when it really should have been left on the cutting room floor.
When script and direction are in harmony though it really does fly. The depiction of the massacre is chilling, understated and thoroughly convincing. A flashback to Herman's attraction to one of his fellow students, Marsha (Olivia Faye), which starts out tentatively as a spark of attraction, is the film's greatest moment, showing the small slights and petty violence both emotional and physical that goes into making a tabloid monster like Herman.
Reedus, the breakout star from TV's 'The Walking Dead', has a more subdued role here, more reactive and questioning than active participant. He allows Backstrom the room to grandstand in a manner that's not so much histrionic but more the inchoate raging of a hormonal teenager who has made a grievous error in lifestyle choices.
Walking a line between the cold and formal 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' and 'Elephant' and the pantomime excesses of 'Natural Born Killers', when left in the hands of its two protagonists this is an interesting, intelligent work. When it deals with wider ramifications it's arguments are as coarse and one note as those it seeks to challenge.

Jason Abbey