TIFF 2013: ‘Hateship Loveship’ a promising film from a director to watch out for

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Hateship Loveship
Written by Mark Poirier
Directed by Liza Johnson
USA, 2013 

Though Liza Johnson’s name may not presently ring too many bells, she is sure to become a household name in the indie genre over the next couple of years. Her last feature, Return, was well-received by critics and included indie darling Michael Shannon. Johnson’s latest – Hateship Loveship – is an assured follow-up that provides both contemplative moments and laugh-out-loud comedy.

Hateship Loveship tells the story of Johanna (Kristen Wiig), an introverted woman who spends her days caring for other people. When she is hired by Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) to care for his granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), Johanna assumes  it will just be another caregiving job. But when Sabitha and her friend Edith (Sami Gayle) play a prank on her and make her think she is in a long-distance romantic correspondence with Sabitha’s father, Ken (Guy Pearce), a recovering alcoholic, things start going differently than planned for Johanna.

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Hateship Loveship is a delightful foray into more dramatic fare for comedy darling Kristen Wiig. Though this is by no means a straight drama and features many moments of hilarious levity, this is still quite different territory for the Saturday Night Live alum. Hateship Loveship moves at its own contemplative pace but never lags. Though we may not exactly be surprised by some of the turns the script takes, especially in its latter half, the sharply written dialogue more than makes up for its predictability. Besides Wiig’s grounded lead performance, Hateship Loveship also features excellent supporting performances by Nolte, Steinfeld, and Pearce. Steinfeld especially proves that True Grit was not just a fluke and that she has more talent to give to the world. Wiig’s and Steinfeld’s characters may seem, on the surface, to be quite different but in reality, they want many of the same things: to be loved and be part of a loving family.

The interactions between Wiig and Steinfeld are some of the best moments of the film and range from comedic to heartwarming to heart-aching. The two actresses play these moments to absolute perfection. Hateship Loveship is a worthy entry to TIFF and a promising film from Liza Johnson, sure to be a director to watch in the future.

— Laura Holtebrinck

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5th to 15th, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official site.

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