Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig) is a profoundly shy, unadorned woman who is hired by Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) as a housekeeper and a primary caregiver to his granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). Despite her outgoing nature, Sabitha carries wounds from the death of her mother years before, complicated by the circumstances of that death for which her grandfather still blames her father, Ken (Guy Pearce), a hapless recovering drug addict with a certain ragged charm. In an act of mean-spirited rebellion, Sabitha uses technology to foster a pseudo-relationship between Johanna and her father, never dreaming of the potential harm to either party. Sabitha doesn’t understand that Johanna is not a demure cut-out, but rather a woman for whom the phrase “still waters run deep” could have been coined. The young girl’s interference provokes Johanna to indulge in something long missing from her life: the dream of a future and a home of her own.
Hateship Loveship was always a movie whose title had turned me off of watching it for quite some time now. For those that are unaware, I am currently doing a Hailee Steinfeld movie marathon, where I will be watching and reviewing one movie from her filmography every single day until I have seen them all.
She is genuinely my second favorite actress of all-time, and so it may be surprising to a lot of you to learn that I actually haven’t seen all of her movies yet. But I have heard of all of them. Liza Johnson’s Hateship Loveship was one that I wasn’t really all that excited to check out though.
It’s not because the premise sounded boring or anything. If they are done right, indie movies can be some of the best movies on the market. In fact, the premise for this film actually sounded quite enticing to me. Really, what turned me off from this movie so much was that title as mentioned earlier.
Even though I was aware that this movie was not a teen-romance movie or anything, every time I heard of that title, a small part of me cringed. Thankfully though, I can say that the movie as a whole was not as bad as the title implies, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.
To be honest with you, the first twenty to thirty minutes or so actually started out exceptionally strong, as we follow the everyday life of this caretaker named Johanna, who just wants to do her job well and live the best life that she can. You feel a ton of sympathy for her and she is by far the most developed character in the whole film.
Speaking of Johanna, Kristen Wiig delivers one of the strongest performances I have ever seen from her thus far. Here, she is carefully reserved and quiet throughout the entire running time, only saying words when they are absolutely necessary. Practically her entire role required a lot of great facial expressions in order to show her feelings, and Wiig does a great job.
As for Steinfeld, her character was not really in the movie all that much. Furthermore, her character was one that was not too interesting or likable, for a while at least. But easily the strongest aspect to Hateship Loveship was the dynamic between Johanna and Guy Pearce’s Ken, whom she has a massive crush on.
The two are different from one another, that’s for sure. But she is determined to win him over, and the scenes that they share together were quite sweet and endearing to watch. The biggest problem with the movie though was that it was incredibly poorly paced. Tons of scenes go by that will leave you wondering “What’s the point of this whole thing?”. I found myself asking that quite a bit throughout.
Oftentimes we will just watch Johanna clean a certain room in the house for a few minutes and that’s the entire scene. There are plenty of scenes like this where not a whole lot happens to progress the story. Truthfully, I got extremely bored after a while and actually started to look forward to the ending so I wouldn’t have to watch any more.
It’s not like the whole movie is devoid of quality though. As I mentioned earlier, all of the performances are exceptional, namely Wiig and Pearce, and has a remarkably strong first act. It’s also a well-shot movie from director of photography Kasper Tuxen, with a lot of the colors popping greatly. It’s just too poorly paced to get too much entertainment out of it as a whole.
Hateship Loveship contains a truly terrific performance from Kristen Wiig and has great camerawork, but it’s too poorly paced to get invested in the story.
Overall Grade: C
MPAA Rating: R for drug use, some sexuality, and language
Directed by: Liza Johnson
Distributed by: IFC Films
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Running Time: 104 minutes