When last did you watch a film and have no idea what was going to happen next? ‘Hateship Loveship’ is an adaptation of the short story by Alice Munroe, and is the type of film that keeps you amusingly intrigued from the opening shot. Director Liza Johnson, created a sentimental feeling during the film that keeps you strangely interested in the unpredictable series of events that drive the narrative.
Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig) is a middle aged ‘plain Jane’ solitary women that has worked serving others as a nanny and cleaner her from the age of 15. She is far from worldly and completely out of touch with reality, society and technology as the world knows it. After her employer dies, she takes a job in Iowa, working for Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) and his free-spirited adolescent granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Stienfeld). Sabitha’s father, Ken (Guy Pearce), is a drug addict who was responsible for the car accident that killed Sabitha’s mother. It’s obvious that there is tension between Ken and his father-in-law as he is forced to leave the house and move to his rundown motel. Johanna, who is unaccustomed to men, is swept off her feet by Ken after he sends a flirtatious comment her way and leaves a note thanking her for looking after his daughter. Johanna decides to respond to the letter out of respect. Sabitha’s friend Edith (Sami Gayle) promises to mail the letter to Ken for her but doesn’t actually do it and smitten Johanna gets caught up in a sick joke as the teenage girls write back to her pretending to be Ken.
It is difficult not to cringe silently for Johanna as she plays a misfit. She wears the most unflattering outfits and comes across as naïve and reserved. Johanna falls deeply in love with Ken thanks to the fake letters, to the point where she starts having secret fantasies like pretending to French-kiss him in the bathroom mirror. You can’t help but feel animosity towards Edith and Sabitha for making a mockery out of Johanna as she begins to yearn for love and a family of her own. Kirsten Wiig was able to adapt herself through noble acting to her new environment (like a chameleon) throughout the film. She moved from a fancy house looking after an old woman to a farmstead home to nurture a teenager to moving into a grungy hotel with the man she fell in love with. In the end she got want she yearned for, a husband and a family of her own.
The characters in the film are very complex and it’s evident that the locations were well chosen to drive the story. The Director of Photography, Kasper Tuxen, tells the tale using a simple impassive style that captures moments of stillness, awkwardness and spoken feeling skilfully.
The film was so vivid it felt as though I was watching the series of events play out through a window. The music in the film was fantastic! It highlighted the dramatic dips and moments of romance very well. If you enjoy films that explore the human soul and the passions of falling in love then this films for you.