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Hateship Loveship


‘…manages to capture the nuances of Munro’s prose and deliver an uncontrived character study…’

A little Brucie bonus for readers who, despite my regular exortations, stubbornly refuse to click on a review with a black and white picture at the top; I get that most readers prefer colour films, but you’re missing out, particularly since black and white looks amazing on blu-ray HD. Anyway, since feeding the every-hungry algo is part of my duties here, this feels like the right time to look back on a minor gem of a movie featuring two stellar performers IMHO, Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce.

The full title of Alice Munro’s short story is Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and that provides a useful guide to the contents of Lisa Johnson’s drama, which manages to capture the nuances of Munro’s prose and deliver an uncontrived character study. Kristen Wiig plays down her undoubted comic abilities and plays up her downtrodden side as Johanna Parry, introduced on her final day of work as carer to an elderly lady. Johanna gets on a bus and starts a new job, taking care of a teenage girl Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld) whose mother has been killed in a speedboat accident. Sabitha has two paternal figures, her largely absent coke-head father Ken (Guy Pearce) and her mother’s dad, played by Nick Nolte. When Sabitha allows a school friend to make mischief between Johanna and Ken by faking an email correspondence that raises Johanna’s hopes of a relationship, the family gets pulled in agonising directions when a tentative romance unexpectedly blooms between Johanna and Ken.

Hateship Loveship is a decidedly low-key drama, well played and managing to dodge contrivance at every stage; Wiig does a good job of suggesting Johanna’s dogged determination, using cleaning and caring as a way of working her way into a substance abuser’s heart. And cleaning has always been a great way of showing character development, from Chunking Express to The Color Purple, and its always far more enjoyable to watch someone else using their elbow grease than doing it yourself.

And double-bonus points here for the remarkable career of Guy Pearce, an actor fast approaching 100 credits on imdb, and currently on my screen as he returns to his roots in Australian soap Neighbours. I’d personally like to see a reality tv show about Guy Pearce’s conversations with his agent, since there seem to be no roles that this versitile actor won’t put himself up for. Sure, we know him from Memento, LA Confidential, The Hurt Locker, Prometheus and other notables, but it’s the sheer variety of his work that confounds. Harry Houdini in Death Defying Acts? Sure. Andy Warhol in Factory Girl? He’ll give it a shot. King Edward VIII in The King’s Speech? That should be in his wheelhouse, as should playing the quick-firing hero in outer-space-prison-slammer Die Hard knock-off Lockout. Historical epics (Mary Queen of Scots), Adam Sandler movies (Bedtime Stories), possessed priests, soldiers, detectives, Ebeneezer Scrooge; either this man has a horrific tax bill to pay or he’s the most versatile actor on our screens today. So Guy Pearce, we salute you!


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  1. Is this the old tired, reused, recycled and totally cliched “enemies to lovers” thing? Because I’ve got some dishes Guy Pearce can use some of that acting talent on. He can pretend he’s a dishwasher at my house!

    • Apple do my head in because they seem to feel that doing zero promotion is the best way forward. Their shows seem to sink like stones, whether they’re good or not, and it’s very rare to hear from any publicist working for them. At least they’ve given up on dumping everything on streaming; their new Scorsese movie is a proper cinema release. For All Mankind looks good, but barely seemed to register with the public or media. 7 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for their second season; a popular programme gets well over hundred. It just seems like a hobby for them, I guess they make their money elsewhere.

      • I didn’t know that. FAM is quite a cut above, excellent acting first and foremost, attention to detail +++ compelling story lines, fab character building and a great whatifery, plus thoughtful if sometimes a bit obvious social commentary, which in the context of alternative timeline is not cliched. Also beautifully filmed!

  2. You had me with Alice Munro, one of the great Canadian writers. I tracked this down as a 2013 American Independent that made no money in the US. Since the only two Munro adaptations I’ve seen have been by Sarah Polley and Pedro Almodóvar, it looks difficult for Liza Johnson to compete – but she has plenty of experience. The cast looks very strong, but Munro is very much an Ontario writer for me. I wonder how the story works set in the US? Where did you see this?

    • It’s coming up as a pay-for on Apple TV and prime, but it’s a small film that has turned up on various streamers. This has a more adapted feel that Away from Her, and the changes setting maybe dilutes Munro’s style, but I really enjoyed this as the kind of minor key short story that films don’t really do enough anymore. I’m quite easily pleased by certain kinds of film, as you know, but would be keen to hear your thoughts on this. I think it conveys both the sensitivity but also the matter of fact quality of her prose.

    • There’s always one, isn’t there? Isn’t that because you review on a black and white portable tv?

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