Still Waters Run Deep
Kristen Wiig, best known for her comic turns in Bridesmaids and on Saturday Night Live, delivers one of the best dramatic performances of the year in Hateship Loveship. She plays a painfully shy caregiver who could be the poster child for the old saying that “if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Fortunately, Wiig gets help from a fine supporting cast including Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, and Hailee Steinfield. Plus, Mark Poirier’s screenplay adaptation of a short story by Alice Monro offers intriguing dialogue, and filmmaker Liza Johnson works magic with her sensitive direction of a movie that could have ended up being a real downer. Instead, it comes across as a little jewel of a film. This is definitely a serious motion picture -- but one that also includes a bit of welcome humor.
When Johanna Parry (Wiig) accepted a job caring for Mr. McCauley (Nolte) and his teenage granddaughter Sabitha (Steinfield), she never expected her own life to change so drastically. Although Ben (Pearce), Sabitha’s father, treats Johanna with courtesy and respect, Sabitha starts out disliking her. She and her girlfriend (Sami Gayle) make fun of Johanna’s old-fashioned clothes and quiet behavior. They even go so far as to play a cruel trick on Johanna, one that leads to her belief Ben has feelings for her. Johanna starts taking more interest in her appearance -- and begins to make serious romantic plans. Of course, Ben knows nothing about any of this. What will he do when he finds out? What will Johanna do if Ben rejects her -- after all, he already has a “thing” going on with Cloe (Jennifer Jason Lee)?
Difficult relationships appear at the core of Hateship Loveship. For example, Sabitha’s mother died in a car crash, and McCauley blames Ben because he was driving under the influence. In fact, McCauley seems reluctant to let Ben have much contact with Sabitha. There’s a lot of work needed to improve communication between Ben and Sabitha as well as between Ben and McCauley. Watching Johanna try to help these family members get along better emerges as one of the many treats here. Another involves the way her own relationships with Ben and Sabitha become something special. She doesn’t say much, but her actions speak louder than words.
Wiig is a revelation in this role. She simply becomes a plain, unobtrusive woman with immense inner strength. Pearce looks scruffy and unkempt, but he fits his part perfectly. Nolte and Stanfield just couldn’t be better as a worried grandfather and his troubled granddaughter. Everything about Hateship Loveship feels real --characters, settings, conversations, etc. Kasper Tuxen’s (Beginners) cinematography heightens the movie’s realism, and the film moves along at just the right pace.
Although I love seeing Kristen Wiig in comedies, here’s hoping she plays more dramatic roles in the future.
(Released by IFC Films and rated “R” for drug use, some sexuality and language.)
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