TIFF Review: ‘Hateship Loveship’ Sees Kristen Wiig All Tied Up

By Matthew Little, Epoch Times
September 16, 2013 10:19 am Last Updated: September 26, 2014 1:02 pm

Hateship Loveship” is a tale of awkward and unlikely love, redemption and hope—the unexpected by-products of a cruel prank.

Director Liza Johnson brings Canadian author Alice Munro’s short story to life in this film adaption by screenwriter Mark Poirier. It made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6.

Kristen Wiig turns in an unlikely but charming performance as Johanna Parry, a homely and stiffly shy woman kept as a personal attendant since she was 15. For those used to Wiig’s over-the-top caricature performances on “Saturday Night Live,” her portrayal of Johanna will seem like an incredible departure.

Wiig turns in a convincingly restrained performance as a painfully lonely woman used to living within someone else’s home and under their influence. Her happiness and sorrow come with the overarching requirement that she reveal little, and Wiig manages the role with suitable subtlety.

Johanna has no friends and few social skills, but can work hard with little in the way of encouragement or appreciation—which is all she gets from Sabitha played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), the teenage daughter of drug addict Ken, played by Guy Pearce.

Sabitha lives with her grandfather Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte), who hires Johanna after the elderly woman she worked for since she was a teenager dies.

That relatively mundane life is quickly rocked by Sabitha and her best friend Edith (Sami Gayle) who has a vicious sense of humour. They start sending Johanna emails pretending to be Sabitha’s father proclaiming his love for her. 

This is a story that celebrates the small victories in average lives— victories hard won and deeply cherished. Its cast turns in solid performances in a story familiar enough to matter, but odd enough to be touching.