“Hateship Loveship,” the latest Kristen Wiig movie, finds itself sandwiched between her commercial comedies such as “Despicable Me 2” and “Anchorman 2” and her predictable desire to be seen as more than an attractive woman who used to have tiny hands for five minutes at a time every Saturday night. While it’s completely understandable that Kristen Wiig would be on the lookout for more dramatic films, unfortunately “Hateship Loveship” isn’t the right vehicle for her. It has been lovingly crafted and adapted, but it is far too dull, and has clearly been stretched and adapted from a much shorter work.
Sometimes a short story is just a short story
That work is Alice Munro’s short story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” published in 2001. Director Liza Johnson, and a cast made up of Wiig, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, and Hailee Steinfeld, try to bring to life the story of Johanna (Wiig) an awkward and lonely caretaker. She finds herself falling for a recovering addict (played by Guy Pearce) while she acts as a nanny to his spoiled and typical teenage daughter, played by Steinfeld. The plot then follows through on the full title of the short story in the most awkward way possible.
The weight of the movie falls directly onto Kristen Wiig’s shoulders. Being surrounded by veterans like Nolte and Pearce helps take some of the load off of her, but the tone of the movie is still dependent on her quiet and subdued performance. While it is a good performance, and she proves herself to be a very natural actress, it is still the same performance that we have seen from Kristen Wiig before. It is the same sad-sack performance that she gave in “Bridesmaids,” only the punchlines to all of the jokes have been edited out.
It certainly is nice to see Hailee Steinfeld back on the screen once more after taking a lengthy departure following “True Grit.” “Hateship Loveship” is her first film at the festival, followed by “Can A Song Save Your Life” with Mark Ruffalo and Kiera Knightley, and then “Ender’s Game” later in the year. She shows just the right amount of confusion, meanness, and sweetness to nail the role of the spoiled daughter, especially when her and her annoying friend start sending fake emails to Wiig on behalf of her father. There’s a lot of hurt behind her eyes, and I certainly hope that we’ll get as great a performance from her in later roles.
Somewhere between hateship and loveship
Besides the acting however, there is very little that is engaging about “Hateship Loveship.” The stakes are incredibly low for nearly everyone as they fumble through their lives. Guy Pearce has the most to lose as the recovering addict trying to get his life back through the purchase of a rundown motel, but he is such a slime ball that I couldn’t have cared less if he ended up screwing everyone over. Most of all the film is incredibly dull, filled with conversations that cut back and forth to imply tension and contemplation, but all they do is stretch out the conversation to an interminable length. You could fall asleep for twenty minutes (as some people did) and barely miss a thing.
Aside from Hailee Stienfeld’s performance, the only other saving grace is the skewed sense of humor that runs throughout the film, making for some very cringe worthy scenes. Watching Kristin Wiig make out with a mirror is one of the least sexy but funniest things that happens, and other small and similar scenes keep “Hateship Loveship” from being a complete bore.
I didn’t really know anything about “Hateship Loveship” going into it, and it’s a shame that the film didn’t manage to ‘wow’, or elicit anything other than mild admiration. It’s good but dull, and though it is clear that everyone involved clearly cared about the production, there’s just not enough story to care about.
My Rating: 6.5/10