A Man Needs a Maid (Film Review: “Hateship Loveship”)

In the tender yet unsentimental film, Hateship Loveship, Kristin Wiig delivers a beautifully nuanced portrayal of a young woman whose half-life experience makes her the unwitting participant in a cruel, mean-girl prank. But who’s the loser here?

SnapShot Plot

Kristen Wiig shines in this low-key performance vehicle as the character, Johanna Parry, an elder-caregiver somewhere in the Midwest whose life takes a sudden shift when she must abruptly find new employment. She answers an ad for a live-in nanny/housekeeper, working for a Mr. McCauley (played by Nick Nolte), a grandfather struggling to raise his teen aged granddaughter, Sabitha (played by True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld) after the tragic death of the girl’s mother. Australian actor Guy Pearce gives a believable and understated performance as Sabitha’s deadbeat father, Ken, who McCauley blames for the death of his only daughter. When Johanna shows up at the McCauley home, Ken happens to be there, presumably to see Sabitha but also to court the old man for a financial investment in his latest business venture, a predictably non-starter conversation. Hovering on the scene is Sabitha’s best friend Edith (TV’s Blue Bloods’ Sami Gayle), a precocious and conniving girl (with the kind of open-mouth grin that turns nasty quickly) who features prominently in the malicious hi-jinks about to ensue.

What may start out as a practical joke by bored teenagers – waged upon a woman too innocent to tell the difference between real and faked correspondence – quickly turns serious and potentially tragic for Johanna as she finds herself contemplating the real possibility of romantic love for the very first time. And as she begins to envision herself as one who could be loved in such a way, we witness her delicate transformations in small yet poignant ways, as well as the shaping of her own destiny taking seed in her mind. And the quintessentially Midwestern certainty of it makes her stubborn adherence to the idea a real nail-biter, in the gentlest, quietest way imaginable.

 

 

Parting Shot

Patiently directed by Liza Johnson and based on a short story by Alice Munro, Hateship Loveship is more Americana minimalist than showy Hollywood, with a no frills production design and a cautious musical score that reflects the profound simplicity at the core of Johanna’s personality. With a high wattage star power in the supporting cast, which includes Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christine Lahti, I can only surmise that the small-ish roles signal a labor of love project for these stars, given the slight impacts of their characters.

Although Johanna’s lack of education and experience may make her vulnerable to abuse, and her knowledge base revolves around domestic duties, she’s no fool. She knows how to clean and how to care. And for some fractured lives, true salvation can only be found by restoring some order from the chaos.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of:  http://mymastientertainment.blogspot.com/2014/04/hateship-loveship-2013-hd-movie-trailer.html

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO19v3Gnz_U

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