April 21, 2014 – Kristen Wiig has made interesting choices since leaving Saturday Night Live to pursue a career in film. With her success with the mega hit “Bridesmaids”, she likely has her selection of movie scripts, some hilarious and some quirky and hilarious, and all have been entertaining.
In her latest role, she plays quirky, without the hilarious. In fact, she barely cracks a smile in the new Indy film “Hateship Loveship”, which is based on the short story by Alice Munro.
It wouldn’t be stretching it too much to call her character a modern-day Jane Eyre. She plays Johanna Parry, caregiver/nanny/nurse who takes a job minding a teenage girl who lives with her grandfather (Haliee Steinfeld and Nick Nolte). Unlike Jane Eyre, we know little about Johanna’s past – she worked for an elderly woman as a nurse for most of her career, and in the opening scene, the woman dies – but we can tell by her sullen face, her past was not filled with love and laughter.
The teen, Sabitha (Steinfeld), lives with her grandfather because her mother was killed when her drunken father crashed their car. Her father (Guy Pearce) served time for the accident and death. After a cruel trick by Sabitha and her friend Edith, who both prey on Johanna’s naïve and shy personality, Johanna thinks she is in a relationship with Sabitha’s father, and this is a completely new experience for her.
This is one of those films that counts on dialogue to move it forward. There is no real action, and the story line is simple and quiet. Not simple enough, though to offer few surprises. Screenwriter Mark Poinier and Munro do a fine job of staying away from clichés in this story. For example, Nolte, as the grandfather, and the father who lost his daughter in the car accident, isn’t the angry, bitter man you expect him to be. He doesn’t trust his son-in-law, but he welcomes him into his home so he can maintain a relationship with Sabitha.
Pearce’s character, as the addict father, is also surprising. He sees his flaws, and although he doesn’t try to hide them or make excuses, you can tell he wants to change and be a good role model for his daughter. While you can’t call him the hero of the film, at least in the traditional sense, he isn’t the villain, either.
There are plenty of awkward moments in the film that are interesting and somewhat cringe worthy. Johanna leaves herself open to the possibilities for the first time in her life, and we feel for her, root for her, and even fear for her. The film isn’t a feel good drama with a fairy tale ending. It’s real life that plays out on the screen, portraying plenty of human emotion without being overly dramatic. It also portrays three-dimensional people, with both good and bad and hero and villain qualities.
Hateship Loveship is well acted and refreshing. Liza Johnson, who directed, refers to it as a love story for grownups, but I believe it’s for anyone who enjoys a dose of reality in their film choices. While you won’t leave the theater hopeful that the characters rode off into a blissful existence, you will leave realizing that sometimes simple is good, and these are the stories that are lacking in Hollywood today. The film is in limited release in some cities, and is available On Demand, as part of Comcast’s “same day as theaters” promotion.