Hateship Loveship is the story of Johanna Parry (played by Kristen Wiig), a lonely woman who has spent her life caring for others. After the elderly woman she is caring for dies, Johanna finds employment working for Mr. McCauley (played by Nick Nolte) and his teenage granddaughter Sabitha (played by Hailee Steinfeld.)
Sabitha’s friend, Edith, convinces her to write a letter to Johanna from Ken (played by Guy Pearce), Sabitha’s ex-convict, drug-addicted father. Ken is a mess: he has a drug-addict girlfriend (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), lives in a dilapidated motel which he is ostensibly fixing up, and was responsible for the death of Sabitha’s mother. Johanna decides to take a chance on love and abandons her job with Mr. McCauley and Sabitha to visit Ken.
Kristen Wiig is spectacular in this movie, delivering an understated, nuanced performance; she portrays a wide variety of emotions with a simple mouth twitch or a slight nod. This is surprising as she was mostly a comedic actress in the slapstick vein. Wiig plays Johanna as a person who has been beaten down by life, but refuses to give up and even is even able to make the best of a horrible situation caused by a cruel, mean-spirited trick. She is damaged, but not broken. She transforms from someone who has never loved but wants to into someone who does love, unconditionally.
Based on a short story by Alice Munro, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” the movie is a moving portrayal of realistic adult love. Broken people find each other and are able to fall in love despite neither being glamorous, wealthy, or conventionally attractive. The film never feels like it is beating the viewer over the head with this message. Rather, it lets the actors play out the theme in slow, quiet and moving way.
The film can be kind of slow-moving, but the understated performances offset this; the film never feels as if it is lagging. Another minor criticism is that Ken and his junkie girlfriend, Chloe (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) look too fit. Ken is trim and muscular, he doesn’t look dissipated from years of smoking, drug abuse, malnutrition and soul-crushing guilt. Jennifer Jason Leigh is still very attractive; she looks nothing like an aging drug addict and is healthy with bright eyes. She’s not scrawny and emaciated as many drug addicts are. But this is only a minor gripe and does not take away from the movie or the performances of the actors.
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Worth a look if you like realistic portrayals of adult love.
Skip it if your are more of a rom-com person.