Review: Hateship Loveship

Still of Guy Pearce and Kristen Wiig in Hateship Loveship

Hateship Loveship is an 2014 independent film starring Kristen Wiig as the slightly odd woman Johanna Parry. It’s a tale about love and trust as it unfolds in the life of the strange off-kilter Johanna.

Also featured in the film are Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sami Gayle, Christine Lahti, and Nick Nolte.

I often notice couples like this out in the world. People who break the mold somehow, who don’t fit in the conforming boxes, but who have found someone to appreciate them and share a life with them. All while the more beautiful, popular people are lonely and alone.

Johanna Parry is one of those odd ducks. Someone you wouldn’t notice. Someone a little strange who doesn’t show much affect. Someone who dresses in unfashionable ways and never stands out. Yet somehow this odd little woman, this nobody of a woman, found love, found the right person, and overcame.

Johanna wears lace up shoes and white anklets, shirtwaist dresses and cardigans. She looks like she stepped out of 1957. She doesn’t move her arms when she talks. She’s tonally quiet and shows almost no emotion.

I’m convinced there’s nothing Kristen Wiig cannot do. Her Johanna is brilliant. She manages to be undemonstrative yet open like a flower, be unaffected yet deeply joyful. It’s a powerful performance. Wiig’s Johanna is a work of art. I’ve given so many of her performances high marks, and I do Hateship Loveship as well.

Here’s a bit of the plot. Johanna cared for an elderly woman from the age of 15. She was never allowed to go anywhere. When the woman died, her next job was as a housekeeper and babysitter for the teenaged Sabitha (Steinfeld). Johanna was completely unprepared to watch a teenager, and completely uneducated in the ways of the world.

When she arrived at the new job, her employer and Sabitha’s grandfather, Mr. McCauley (Nolte), showed her to her very nice room. Sabitha’s father Ken (Pearce) was there at the time, as was Sabitha’s friend Edith (Gayle). Ken took the two teens and Johanna out to eat.

Ken told McCauley he owned a motel and it was going to be a great business opportunity. Then he argued with McCauley about money and an accident that killed McCauley’s daughter and left.

Ken left a note for Johanna thanking her for looking after his daughter. When she tried to answer the note by asking Sabitha for a mailing address, Sabitha and Edith began writing love letters to Johanna pretending to be Ken. Johanna fell in love. She bought a green dress and high heels that she explained to the clerk would be her wedding dress.

Ken was on parole, a junkie, hoping to land a minimum wage job when he wasn’t crashing in the trash heap of a motel he somehow managed to obtain. His junkie girlfriend (Leigh) was equally useless.

Johanna left her job, withdrew all her savings, and showed up at the closed-up motel. She crawled in through a bathroom window. She found Ken in a filthy room on a mattress on the floor. She moved in, began to clean, and things grew from there.

Johanna isn’t stupid. She knows Ken is using drugs, knows he took money from her purse. She simply stays. Waits. Helps. Loves. An immovable object of good, a boulder that Ken cannot find a way around.

Nick Nolte had a great role in this film. He got to comb his hair! He dressed well and got to kiss Christine Lahti. I don’t think either Nick Nolte or Christine Lahti have been in a film in years where kissing was part of the role. Points for that. #eldersrock

Hateship Loveship was directed by Liza Johnson, based on a short story by Alice Munro called “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.” The film is available on Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes and elsewhere.

Watch the Trailer for Hateship Loveship

3 thoughts on “Review: Hateship Loveship”

  1. I love stories like this—odd people who prevail and find a niche for themselves. All unfamiliar actors to me. (except Nick Nolte—and you find him in the most surprising places!). Alice Munro, on the other hand, is most familiar to me, having read every one of her amazing books!

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