Magazine article Screen International

Hateship Loveship

Magazine article Screen International

Hateship Loveship

Article excerpt

Dir: Liza Johnson. US. 2013. 102mins

Hateship Loveship examines deception in a family in the American Midwest, fueled by a 21st century identity theft. Kristen Wiig is a revelation as a timid love-deprived victim who turns a tawdry prank into an opportunity. As a work of understatement and restraint, Hateship Loveship will draw praise from the critics who see it on the festival circuit, yet that very composure could keep it from getting traction in cinemas.

Hateship Loveship evokes the formula of governess-versus-teenager tales and humble true-grit morality plays.

The film also showcases another dimension in the versatile talent of Kristen Wiig, whose performance couldn't be farther from the broad bawdy comedy of Bridesmaids.

Liza Johnson's adaptation of a short story by Alice Munro (with a spare script by Mark Poirier) follows Johanna (Wiig), a shy awkward caregiver whose elderly patient has just died. Johanna takes a new job caring for teenaged Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit), whose coke-head father Ken (Guy Pearce) is scorned by father-in-law Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte), an angry patriarch.

When Sabitha's two-faced friend Edith (Sami Gayle) creates a false correspondence to deceive Johanna into an email romance with Ken, Johanna eagerly takes the bait, yet the simple caregiver reveals her own unexpected quiet guile.

Everything is understated in this American heartland tale, as Johnson probes the inner longings of Johanna, emerging from years of attending to a dying woman. (In Johnson's debut 2011 feature, The Return, a female war veteran came home to uncertainly and emptiness.) Her nuanced portrait in Hateship Loveship of an adult coming of age late in the game - kicked into love as part by a teenage ruse -- has a rare subtle sensitivity.

Hateship Loveship evokes the formula of governess-versus-teenager tales and humble true-grit morality plays, yet Munro's story, along with Poirier's script and Wiig's shades of nuance, defy any boilerplate treatment. …

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