Review: Hateship Loveship
PLOT: A timid caregiver finds unexpected love with a man she barely knows while corresponding with him only she doesn't realize it's not him with whom she's corresponding.
REVIEW: Anyone expecting Kristen Wiig to perform schtick or engage in pratfalls in her latest film will be either disappointed or pleasantly surprised by her low-key, somber performance, which is quite a change of pace for the comedienne. HATESHIP LOVESHIP has Wiig playing a meek introvert whom often barely says a word and wilts at the slightest sign of attention. It's the centerpiece of a rather melancholy film piece which is an intimate study of loneliness and lost souls.
Wiig plays Johanna, a solitary caretaker constantly on the lookout for a new job. Her latest sees her working for a wealthy man (Nick Nolte) and his rebellious granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld) in a small Iowa town. While there she meets the old man's ex son-in-law, Ken (Guy Pearce), an addict responsible for the death of his wife. Thanks to a few brief glimmers of kindness on the part of Ken, Johanna quickly become enamored with him, though her quiet nature will barely allow her to speak to the man.
Johanna starts a correspondence with Ken, typed flirtations that enable her to come out of her shell. There's one problem: She's not actually talking with Ken, she's interacting with Sabitha and her bitchy friend Edith (Sami Gayle), who're cruelly stringing the mousy caregiver along; Ken is miles away in Chicago getting high and slumming it with a fellow druggie (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The clueless Johanna sees an opportunity to change her morose existence around and makes the bold move to find Ken and start both of their lives anew.
Directed by Liza Johnson and based on the short story "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" by Alice Munro, HATESHIP LOVESHIP is a very slow burn, taking on the personality of its lead protagonist as she struggles to deal with what must be her first true love. This is not exactly a fun movie; in fact, it's frequently depressing and uncomfortable. But with that said, Johnson is more than capable at getting to her characters' wounded cores and bringing out a handful of heartfelt moments.
But while it's effective in the moment, HATESHIP LOVESHIP (and boy, I hate that title) doesn't necessarily leave a large impression. It's defined by it's subtlety, and as a result it lacks making a truly memorable statement. Not a damning criticism, by any means, simply the way it resonated with me.
Wiig is the heart and soul of the movie; it's a simple, unshowy dramatic turn that is thankfully devoid of any over-the-top hand-wringing or histrionics. She inhabits Johanna with ease and confidence, and is indeed the main reason to watch the movie. Guy Pearce is also quite good as a man who needs to come out of his own shell, a scruffy good-for-nothing with untapped potential. And of course you can always count on Nick Nolte to bring grumpy goodwill to a role like this, as a grandfather who won't take any shit but is much more than his gruff exterior.