Directed by Liza Johnson
Starring Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Jason Leigh
When it comes to comedians playing in dramas, only a few and far between have ever been able to make it work (think Jim Carrey in The Truman Show or Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me). Then you have the unfortunate actors who made their names in comedies and are confused as comedians, when in reality they are just great performers. Despite her beginnings with "Saturday Night Live" and her Oscar-nominated job as a writer on Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig is a great performer all around, pushing past just one genre, proven through her work in the dark comedy Hateship Loveship.
Wiig stars as Johanna Parry, a ill-begotten caretaker/nanny who takes a job to help with teenager Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). After meeting Sabitha's alcoholic loser of a father, Ken (Guy Pearce), Johanna falls into a horrible trap laid by Sabitha and her friend Edith. The two teenagers exchange correspondence Johanna pretending to be Ken, telling Johanna how pretty she is and giving her a confidence she hasn't seen in years. When one email leads Johanna to leave her job as Sabitha's nanny and move in with Ken, she uncovers the dirty secret that's led her there. Between humiliation and a strange bode of confidence, Johanna builds a blooming romance with Ken. Supported by Nick Nolte and Jennifer Jason Leigh, the cast alone is a an interesting mix of prestige.
Director Liza Johnson had quite the project to tackle. There were clear moments that could've been done wrong, but thanks to Wiig's talent, these moments come across sincere. One scene in particular, showing Johanna kissing herself in the mirror, could've been an uncomfortable slapstick moment of weird comedy, but instead is a heartbreaking moment showing Johanna's insecurities and weaknesses. Actually, throughout the entire film, there were moments that could've gone either way. Most of the time the story lends itself to the more dramatic, luckily, but because of the thin line of difference, we're left with a movie that can't always make up its mind.
Wiig has never been better, although there are a few moments when it's hard to separate some of her classic "SNL" characters and subtleties from the beautifully strange Johanna. Pearce is great as the dumb druggie of a father. He's honest enough to know his own faults, but weak enough to never quite live past his struggles. Steinfeld shows a maturity not always seen in younger performers.
Hateship Loveship is a brilliant little film with a lot to say, but it seems to run out of words at certain points. It's refreshing to see Wiig light up the screen in a more dramatic role. There's something so familiar about her face, voice, and demeanor that makes you feel comfortable, like you know her. This evokes into her characters, as well, allowing you to take pity in her pain. It's not a perfect film, but it's far from a waste of your time.
Runtime: 104 minutes