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Hateship Loveship

Year: 2014
Production Co: The Film Community
Director: Liza Johnson
Writer: Alice Munro, Mark Poirier
Cast: Kirsten Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld, Nick Nolte

The whole time you're watching Hateship Loveship, you're wondering if the character of Johanna (Kirsten Wiig) has a mental illness. We meet the mousy, plain housekeeper as she starts a new assignment at the house of bereaved father McCauley (Nick Nolte), and she's so quiet, unassuming and seemingly dysfunctional with people it looks like she has a psychological deficiency that's going to play some part in the plot.

Once there she meets the bratty, precocious child of the house, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), daughter to a mother that was killed in an accident by her loser, drug taker and alcoholic husband Ken (Guy Pearce).

The bristling hatred is palpable as Ken and McCauley interact, the former trying anything to get back into his father-in-law's life after what he's done, the latter wanting nothing more than to get him out before he ruins his daughter's life as well.

For some reason that's never explained, Johanna feels attracted to Ken, and after Sabitha and her bitchy best friend at school intercept a handwritten note between them, they start an email address to pose as Ken, writing back and causing Johanna to fall in love with him.

When she suddenly leaves the house (another clue about an apparent mental condition that's not only not explored but not even addressed) to go and live with him, she finds him in his latest investment, a rundown motel he thinks he wants to clean up and run but never well because of drink, drugs and his ne'er do well girlfriend Chloe (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Worse still, he has no idea what Johanna's even talking about, not even owning a computer. In another inexplicable turn of events, Johanna stays anyway, cleaning the place up for him, getting Ken back on the straight and narrow and eventually starting the relationship with him she apparently wanted.

The grenade you expect to go off when Johanna's secret is eventually revealed never comes, and you're left with a strange character who does inexplicable things, the inner workings of which the film has little interest in unpacking.

It doesn't help that the rest of the movie doesn't have any emotional stakes, drama or action either. Like so many indie films, director Liza Johnson takes a long time to describe precious little, and the terminally bland colour palette and personalities on show don't give you anything to look at either.

Note to directors; avoid histrionics by all means, but that doesn't mean eschew drama.

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