‘Hello Herman’ Movie Review – Bullied Message
There always seems to be a “moral of the story.” While I understand why movies need to have a moral – or perhaps why people need to have a moral to latch on to – I don’t understand why it has to always be so explicit. The audience is smart – they can have their own interpretation. In Michelle Danner’s Hello Herman, the “moral of the story” is so preachy and over-the-top, it takes away from some really serious subject matter.
For those that don’t know, Hello Herman is a school shooting movie. This is a gutsy play given the tragedies within the American school system. This was undoubtedly made pre-Sandy Hook, but you have to wonder how many people will simply say it’s still “too soon.”
Herman (Garrett Backstrom) is a 16-year-old bullied high schooler who takes out his frustration on classmates, teachers, and even the police. During his rampage, where he eventually kills 42 people, he takes amateur video and sends it away to a struggling reporter named Lax (Norman Reedus).
Most of the movie becomes Lax interviewing Herman while he tries to uncover why the boy committed the horrific crimes.
Or at least that’s what the movie should be about. Personally, I have a very curious fascination with school shootings. They’re curious to me because they are unexplainable. As a nation, we like to believe people do certain things for a certain reason. We believe this because we don’t want to admit there is something inherently wrong with human nature.
That’s a really powerful thought if you think about it.
In ways, Hello Herman touches these subjects. In ways, the movie points to a variety of things, including how much we should report on these killers. If the media plasters newsstands with these tragic stories, won’t others attempt to become famous, too?
However, the bulk of the movie is not following up on these things. Instead, it spends a lot of time flashing back and forth between Lax’s past and present. With a violent past of his own, it becomes a movie about Lax dealing with his, not Herman’s, problems.
The anti-bullying agenda is present through and through, too, undermining the truth behind these school tragedies. I am not saying bullying isn’t a problem. Rather, I’m saying bullying is often used as a scapegoat to justify the actions. Again, it’s about putting a reason on something that is unexplainable.
It’s really unfortunate how preachy the film becomes and this is punctuated by its really fake “feel.” I’m not sure if I should blame the poor performances or the one-sided (and often unrealistic) characters for this “feel.” Maybe it’s best a school shooting film doesn’t feel real, but from my view, it looks completely manufactured to make a point. Or make a “moral of the story.”
To my count, this is the fourth school shooting film I’ve seen (behind Elephant, Beautiful Boy, and We Need To Talk About Kevin) and this one ranks last. If Michelle Danner’s movie stuck by the synopsis, it had a lot of potential to uncover some truth about these detestable tragedies. However, Hello Herman is a very pointed film that almost does the exact opposite.
Hello Herman releases in limited release this weekend. A complete list of theaters can be found here.
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