HATESHIP LOVESHIP (Liza Johnson, 2013)
Opens Friday, April 11
SNL alum Kristen Wiig gives a chilling breakthrough dramatic performance in Hateship Loveship. Wiig (Bridesmaids) stars as Joanna Parry, a relatively nondescript, ordinary woman who works as a professional caregiver, with little life of her own. After her client, an old woman, dies — Joanna barely reacts when she finds her dead in bed — she is hired as a housekeeper by a widower, McCauley (Nick Nolte), to watch over his teenage granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). The girl’s father, Ken (Guy Pearce), was recently released from prison, having served time for his involvement in the tragic accident that killed his wife — Sabitha’s mother and McCauley’s daughter. Trying to get back into his daughter’s life, Ken writes a kind note to the shy, lonely Joanna, who misinterprets his interest and writes him back. When her letter is intercepted by Sabitha and her best friend, Edith (Sami Gayle), the two girls begin a fake e-mail exchange with Joanna, deceiving her into thinking that she and Ken are falling in love. When Joanna ultimately approaches Ken, she discovers the truth, but just like everything else in her life, she sees it as a mess that can be cleaned up.
Director Liza Johnson’s follow-up to her debut, Return, is a tender, poignant tale of an odd woman not necessarily trying to find her place in the world. Working from a script by Mark Poirer (Goats, Smart People) based on the short story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” by 2013 Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, Johnson takes what could have been an overly familiar, clichéd situation and builds a believable narrative with realistic characters. Wiig is extraordinary as Joanna, channeling Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman as she generally goes about her daily chores with no emotion whatsoever. Just as in the recently released Breathe In, Pearce is excellent as a gentle, troubled soul at a crossroads in his life, his eyes revealing just the right amount of fear at the choices facing him. The all-star cast also includes Christine Lahti as a local banker with a thing for Mr. McCauley and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Ken’s drug-addict girlfriend. (For our twi-ny talk with Johnson, go here.)