This one left me feeling very unsatisfied.
Kristen Wiig stars as Johanna Parry and she’s a very, very, very emotionally stunted woman. In fact, she’s so withdrawn and displays so little emotion that you could swear at first that this might be a zombie film. Now I do not blame her entirely for this sort of cold and disconnected performance, as the director obviously must have been looking for this. And, this sort of character might have worked had the film been more coherent and had a discernible message, though I could detect little of either.
Johanna is a live-in caretaker. When the film begins, the old woman she’s been caring for dies and Johanna now is moving on to another assignment. This time, she’s to care for a teenage girl and her grandfather (Nick Nolte). Soon she sees that there is some strange baggage with the family, as the teen’s father, Ken (Guy Pearce) is not living with them. Slowly she learns this is because Ken is an addict and was responsible for his wife’s death—and went to prison because of this. He’s now on probation* and is clearly a very messed up guy and he shows many indications that he’s still abusing drugs.
For kicks, the daughter and her very nasty friend decide to create a fake boyfriend for Johanna—sending her emails that are supposedly from a love-struck Ken. Very quickly Johanna falls for him and begins writing him regularly. She also appears to be coming out of her emotional shell. Now she begins planning for a life with a man who barely knows her—though she now thinks that he does.
So far, all that has happened in the movie is pretty interesting and the picture pulls you into this world—even if Wiig’s performance is WAY too understated. However, so much of what follows simply makes little sense. Johanna decides to empty her bank account and ship furniture to Ken—and this second part might get her arrested because the grandfather claims it’s his and she takes it from his home. She then shows up unannounced at Ken’s and just hangs out there. After a while, she realizes that he has NOT been sending her letters and it’s all a sick joke…yet she stays! Soon, he’s stealing her money to support his drug habit and she seems content to live with him. By the end of the film, there are both indications that the relationship might be working out (though WHY is beyond me) but there are also indications he’s still using drugs. If this ending sounds unsatisfying and vague, you are definitely correct.
It’s probably good that Influx asked me to review this one—not only because I love reviewing films but because I am a retired psychotherapist and used to work in a drug treatment center. So much of what occurs in Hateship Loveship seems inappropriate and ridiculous. While there are codependent women who might latch onto an addict with fairytale dreams that it will all work out, not showing a realistic ending seems inexplicable. Instead, there’s a strong message that it might just work out fine for this couple—when this is a very dim possibility. Plus, I’d hate to see anyone internalizing this stupid message—sort of like the old song “Stand By Your Man”. In other words, if you just love someone enough, everything will somehow work itself out in life!
*By the way, if a person has gotten out of jail early, they have a PAROLE officer, not a probation officer. Probation officers are employed when a person has been found guilty of a crime but did not get sent to prison. The drug program where I worked was for folks on parole and probation, so I understand the difference between the two.
by Martin Hafer