Movie review: Hateship Loveship

hateship-loveship-hd-poster-365x200April 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.

Advertisements

Year-end releases look promising

imagesDecember 6, 2013 – Movie studios often wait until the end of the year to release their best films. As long as it appears in theaters by December 31, even in limited release, it is eligible for Oscar consideration, and late releases are likely to remain in the minds of Academy voters when selecting nominations.

All I want for Christmas is a free eight hours to see these four soon to be released films.

American Hustle – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
David O. Russell scored big with last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook”, which earned Jennifer Lawrence an Oscar, so why not come back with another compelling story, two of the same stars with two more big name actors added to the mix. The story is fictional, yet based on one of the biggest American scandals ever, complete with con men, powerbrokers and the New Jersey mafia. “American Hustle” has been creating a lot of buzz in the entertainment world, and was named as the best film of 2013 this week by the New York Film Critics Circle. If that isn’t enough to lure you in, perhaps the awesome afro sported by Bradley Cooper in the film will do the trick.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
The first time I saw a preview for this film, I knew I had to see it. Sure, I’m a fan of Joel and Ethan Coen, but even if someone else had written and directed the story of a young singer trying to make it in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s, it would appeal to me. I’m not familiar with the lead actor, Oscar Isaac, but he seemed quite capable in the previews, and if he’s good enough for the Coen brothers, he’s good enough for me.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt
Here’s another film with intriguing previews that have been teasing me for months. The name sounded familiar, and I learned it is based on a 1939 short story by James Thurber, and then turned into a movie in 1947 starring Danny Kaye. Now, I want to see that version, too. As a life-long daydreamer myself, I find the plot intriguing. Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a daydreamer who escapes his simple life by disappearing into a world of fantasies.

Her – Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
In our world of text messages and ever-changing technology, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with this clever concept: a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system. If anything, the storyline sounds imaginative. Moreover, it’s the complete opposite of HAL, the computer we hated in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the first computer given a personality. Spike Jonze, a filmmaker who likes to experiment with the unusual, brings us this interesting film, which is described as romance meets sci-fi. I’m normally turned off by anything sci-fi, but this one is begging me to go along for the ride.

Movie review: Girl Most Likely

imagesJuly 24, 2013 – Hollywood’s newest romantic comedy formula: Write an offbeat, witty script and ask Kristen Wiig to star. She pulls off “outside of the box” better than most these days.

In “Girl Most Likely”, Wiig plays a character similar to her “Bridesmaids” character, a down on her luck female who’s descending spiral forces her to move back in with her mother, and things get a lot worse before they get better. Same formula, slightly different story.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. For now, it works for Wiig because she’s a competent actress who plays this character type well, and is supported by the wonderful cast around her, namely Annette Bening and Matt Dillon, both in hilarious roles that add to the storyline. Ask me if the formula continues to be successful after a few more movies, and I might have a different opinion.

Perhaps the thing I like best about this formula is that Wiig is a woman of a certain age (she turns 40 next month), and she is still offered romantic, albeit quirky lead roles. I’m not sure if we can call her America’s Sweetheart like Meg Ryan back in the day, but it’s great to see women over 25 considered as the romantic interest.

The film takes place in New York City, and in Ocean City, N.J., a vacation resort for folks that live on the east coast, in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Bening spends a good portion of the film in a Mack and Manco tee-shirt, something locals can relate to as a business offering arguably the best pizza on the boardwalk. Mack and Manco, now known as just Manco and Manco in Ocean City rules, and always will.

The premise of “Girl Most Likely” isn’t going to change the world or make you think about philosophy or any other deeper subject. It’s meant to be silly fun and it is. Wiig stars as Imogene, a writer for a New York magazine and a failed playwright who loses her boyfriend, her job and her fancy Manhattan pad, and after an unfortunate attempt to gain attention, lands back in her childhood home in Ocean City, in the same state her well to do and snobby friends poke fun at every time they are reminded she is from New Jersey.

Imogene arrives home only to find her mother (Bening) has moved in her new boyfriend (the hilarious Dillon). Her brother still resides there as well, played by a charming Christopher Fitzgerald, and her mother has taken on a new border (Darren Criss) who has taken over her old room.

The script, written by Michelle Morgan, has plenty of humor with offbeat characters that I am drawn to, and although the ending is predictable, it gave me hearty chuckles. The story is comedy through and through, and there are some tender moments, yet it is not one of those films that emotionally connects you to any character. It is what it is — entertaining.

Rating: 3+ -It’s one of those films you can wait for on DVD, yet it is better than OK that typically is attached to a 3.

Rating System
5. Great Movie, see it now
4. Good movie and worth the price of admission
3. It’s OK, but I’d wait for the DVD
2. Proceed with caution
1. Don’t bother