Quentin Tarantino appearing onscreen usually signals the worst five minutes of an otherwise strong movie. Director Michelle Danner, emoting and unmoored as the grieving mother of Herman, a high-school shooter who grants a video blogger exclusive interview rights, occupies a similarly low point in her film—but in Hello Herman, the valleys aren’t such a far cry from the peaks. Herman (Garrett Backstrom) turns the tables in his prison interviews to interrogate popular ethics blogger Lax Morales (The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus) about an incident that occurred as the reporter was undercover with a white power group a few years prior. As Lax tries to understand what prompted Herman’s attack, we’re presented with flashbacks of the usual suspects: neglectful parents, violent video games, cruel bullies, callous teachers. He also reflects on his own past. Reedus’s understated performance is the strongest in the film; he’s given many opportunities to squint and look troubled. Backstrom, as the young killer, plays on our sympathies, his youthful face giving him an edge in that regard. Yet both performers are let down by John Buffalo Mailer’s screenplay (based on his 2001 play). The dialogue is all surface: Emotions are laid out on the autopsy table for the audience to dissect and analyze, but rarely feel. Adding to the Very Important Message feeling of the film are the paper-thin expository interludes of an ersatz Fox News broadcast, a lazy satire long past its expiration date.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 7, 2013