"Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage."
Hateship Loveship is director Liza Johnson's followup to her debut film, Return, which I never had the opportunity to check out, but despite the fact that I wasn't very impressed with her effort in this film I do see some positive qualities in her film making. Somehow she managed to draw me into the story despite the fact that it centered on almost all unlikable or strange characters. The pacing of the film is extremely slow so you have to be patient with it, and there are also one too many relational conflicts explored which leave many undeveloped or forced moments. The romantic story felt a bit awkward and rushed, but the performances are the highlight of this film. I had never seen Kristen Wiig in a dramatic role before and I thought she gave a solid performance although her character is perhaps the quirkiest. I still enjoy her more in comedic roles, but she proves to have some versatility. Her character might seem quiet and domesticated, but she has a strong and resolute will. Guy Pierce is by far the most unlikable character as he play a carless drug addict and ex-con, but the story redeems him. Hailee Steinfeld continues to impress as a child actress and she delivers yet another solid performance. And finally you have the reliable Nick Nolte who is always a great addition to a film. Hateship Loveship has several pacing issues and an unconventional love story that will turn audiences off, but fans of Wiig will enjoy her unique character in this dramatic film.
The screenplay was adapted by Mark Poirier (Smart People) from Alice Munro's (Away from Her) short story. The main character, Johanna Perry (Kristen Wiig), is as a caregiver who has to look for a new job after the old lady she has worked for passes away. She is hired by Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) who wants her to take care of his granddaughter Sabatha (Hailee Steinfeld). Her mother died in a traffic accident and her father, Ken (Guy Pierce), lives in Chicago and is in no condition of taking care of her due to his drug related problems. When Johanna arrives, Ken happens to be visiting Sabatha, so the two meet and before he heads back to Chicago he leaves a thank you note for her. Sabatha gives Johanna her father's address when she asks for it so she can write him back, but Sabatha's friend, Edith (Sami Gayle) decides to play a cruel trick on her. Offering to post the letter for Johanna she keeps it and convinces Sabatha to play along and trick Johanna by corresponding with her in her father's name. Johanna begins to fall in love with Ken thinking he is the one writing her, but despite Edith's cruel trick, Johanna finds a way to redeem herself.
Despite the slow pacing, Hateship Loveship has a very important underlying theme which I found uplifting. These two characters that end up falling for each other might not have much chemistry on screen because they are not your typical couple, but what I did get out of it was the importance of not being judgmental. That is perhaps Johanna's greatest asset as she is very quiet and patient. She is treated in an unfair manner but she is determined to forgive and expect the best in the other person without judging them for their actions. Eventually that quality is what helps Ken redeem himself and find his purpose. Sometimes all the other person needs is some patience and not someone to point their finger at them. The characters in Hateship eventually become interesting although at first it might be difficult to relate with them. The ending felt a bit rushed, but I had a decent time with this movie and ended up enjoying it more than I expected to (although not nearly as much as my father did).