Hateship Loveship — one of several recent movies that has been available on VOD prior to reaching theaters — proves a restrained but imperfect attempt to turn an Alice Munro short story into a feature-length movie.
Hateship Loveship surrounds Kristen Wiig — in a serious role — with some fine supporting talent, notably Nick Nolte, Hailee Steinfeld and Guy Pearce.
R for drug use, some sexuality and language
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Wiig plays Johanna, a woman who embarks on a new adventure after the elderly woman she has been working for dies. Isolated for much of her life, Johanna becomes a kind of housemaid and nanny to Mr. McCauley (Nolte) and his recalcitrant teen-age granddaughter Sabitha (Steinfeld).
The plot engages when one of Sabitha’s friends (Sami Gayle) decides to play a prank on Johanna, setting up an affectionate e-mail correspondence between Johanna and Pearce’s Ken, Sabitha’s drug-addicted father. Ken’s contributions to this dialogue are composed by Gayle’s Edith.
Acting on what she believes to be her one chance for love, lonely Johanna travels to Chicago and moves in with Ken, who resides in a rundown motel that he makes noises about renovating.
Half spooky and half sincere, Wiig proves convincing as a woman who knows next to nothing about the world and its rules.
Gradually, Johanna takes over Ken’s life: She sees hope where we see nothing but potential doom.
To worm her way into Ken’s world, the emotionally underdeveloped Johanna must displace Chloe (Jennifer Jason Leigh), one of Ken’s junkie pals.
Director Liza Johnson, working from a script by Mark Poirier, files off the story’s rougher edges, which has the effect of making Loveship Hateship entirely too easy to shrug off.
What could have been a tender little movie seems little more than
a curiosity: Wiig in a role without a comic side.