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!