Hateship Loveship is yet another of those movies that has been on my watchlist for such a long time I forgot everything about it, even the reason I was interested in seeing it —it was Guy Pierce, as it turned out.
Based on a short Story from Nobel winning author Alice Munro, the film follows Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig), a middle-aged repressed caregiver after she is hired by an elderly man, Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte), who needs help in the house and to watch over his teenage granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), who lives there since her mother was killed in a car accident blamed on her irresponsible father, Ken (Guy Pearce), who lives in a motel in Chicago. During one of his visits, Ken meets Johanna and leaves her a friendly note. She writes a reply, Sabitha and her best friend Edith (Sami Gayle) pen fake love letter from Ken and Johanna is led to believe Ken has feelings for her.
Hateship Loveship’s is a very simple story about real people whose realism makes it difficult to watch at times. It’s a weird one too as it manages to be compelling and dull at the same time; it unfolds at a dramatically slow pace —which is why it feels dragged at times— and yet there are parts of the story that feel rushed, specifically the romance which I never really bought as it feels more like a wish-fulfilment kind of story rather than an actual love story. As for the subplots, they kind of ends abruptly.
The characters are a bit odd too as they are quite unlikeable and difficult to relate to but eventually, they become interesting enough for you to keep watching. Johanna is an awkward woman with no social skills whatsoever; she is the kind of person who finds happiness in helping others; she understands that she has very limited skills but she tries to be as helpful as she can be with the little she can do. She is a very vulnerable woman and yet she displays so little emotions and has a constant blank expression that make her appear like a robot. On top of that, Wiig’s performance isn’t the most compelling as she doesn’t really capture the nuances of the character but rather plays the character she always plays only with a straight, serious face.
At least the supporting cast gives compelling performances. Guy Pearce gives such a sensible and believable performance as Ken, the struggling recovering addict, and manages to be incredibly charming and off-putting at the same time. Nick Nolte also gives a strong performance as Mr. McCauley, the wounded grandfather, and Hailee Steinfeld does well as the rebellious teenage girl.
Ultimately, I’m not sure how I feel about Hateship Loveship as I didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it either –I guess I’m on the neutralship. I did, however, like Liza Johnson’s approach to the characters’ emotions: teenage angst being the exception, they all are handles with softened, without making a big deal of everything, which is how a normal person would face the same situations in real life.