HATESHIP LOVESHIP (director: Liza Johnson; screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier/based on the short story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” by Alice Munro; cinematographer: Kasper Tuxen; editor: Michael Taylor; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Kristen Wiig (Johanna Parry), Guy Pearce (Ken), Hailee Steinfeld (Sabitha), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Chloe), Sami Gayle (Edith), Christine Lahti (Eileen, bank teller), Nick Nolte (Mr. McCauley); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michael Benaroya/Jamin O’Brien/Cassian Elwes/Dylan Sellers/Rob Barnum; IFC Films; 2013)
“My problem is I never believed what was happening was love.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A mortifying relationship movie that proves to be as awkwardly perceived as its title. In order to be appreciated the viewer like the withdrawn heroine must take a leap of faith and accept that love can happen to anyone who seeks it. The setting for the dramedy is changed from Canadian author Alice Munro’ Ontario, Canada, in the 1950s, to modern day Iowa and Chicago (but filmed mostly in Louisiana). It’s written by Mark Jude Poirier and directed by Liza Johnson(“Return”/”Falling”), who try making it a poignant observation on human nature drama.
The middle-aged repressed caregiver, Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig), begins a new job in a new city when her last elderly patient dies and she’s hired by the prosperous elderly businessman McCauley (Nick Nolte). He dwells in splendor, on an estate, with his cranky teenage grand-daughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld ), who lives there ever since her mom was killed in an auto accident blamed on her irresponsible, junkie, ex-convict drunken father Ken (Guy Pearce). Dad lives in a seedy Chicago motel, one he bought as a fixer-upper with dad’s help. Johanna meets Ken when he visits his daughter and before departing leaves her a thank-you note for looking after his daughter. Spiteful Sabitha and her bitchy friend Edith (Sami Gayle) play a mean-spirited low-life prank on Johanna after catching her eyeball dad and intercept Johanna’s reply to carry on a bogus correspondence whereby Ken declares his love to Johanna and she quits her job to join the surprised man in Chicago. Despite the misunderstanding, they slowly fall in love and the rotten joke backfires and leads to Ken reforming and marrying the maid.
My problem is I never believed what was happening was love or possible (though, of course, anything is possible); it seemed like fancy play-acting and some kind of wish-fulfillment fairy tale that was tentatively helmed and all life was squeezed out of it for a disingenuous look at reality. It also brings up several subplots, such as McCauley hitting on a banker (Christine Lahti) to begin an affair and Ken living with a junkie (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Each subplot abruptly ends without further development, as if it were just fill-in fodder.
REVIEWED ON 5/11/2014 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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