Hateship Loveship
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Since her days as a Saturday Night Live cast member, Kristen Wiig has brought her own brand of awkward humor to hit comedies like Bridesmaids. She’s the kind of actress that people either love or hate—but, whatever your feelings for the quirky comic, you’re sure to be surprised by her performance in director Liza Johnson’s Hateship Loveship.

Hateship Loveship finds Wiig in an unexpectedly serious role as Johanna Parry, a long-time caregiver who’s forced to start a new life after the woman in her care dies. She begins working for Bill McCauley (Nick Nolte), who needs help caring for his teenage granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld).

As a cruel teenage joke, Sabitha and her best friend engineer a fake correspondence between the timid nanny and Sabitha’s troubled dad, Ken (Guy Pearce). And when Johanna runs off to be with the man she loves, she ends up at the door of a man who barely knows her.

Based on a short story by Alice Munro, Hateship Loveship is a charming drama about a quiet caretaker who ends up transforming the lives of those around her. Johanna’s story is sometimes a difficult one to watch, since after spending most of her life caring for the same elderly woman, she lacks experience in the outside world—and that makes it all too easy for others to take advantage of her kindheartedness. Still, while you may sometimes cringe at her naiveté, her kindness and determination move her story along—and they help her create her own kind of happiness.

At the center of the film, meanwhile, is an irresistible cast—from Nolte as the bitter grandfather to Pearce as the generally well-meaning addict. But it’s Wiig who was in the position to make or break this movie. Her performance, after all, is the focal point of the film. She needs to be awkward yet still likable—the kind of character who will earn your sympathy instead of your irritation—and that isn’t an easy balance for even the most seasoned dramatic actors to strike. But while many comedic actors struggle to make the transition into drama (see Will Forte in Nebraska), Wiig is pitch-perfect as the lonely nanny. Though she tends to overplay her comedic roles, her performance as Johanna feels refreshingly natural and understated—and she almost single-handedly gives the film its charm.

At times, Johanna’s story seems a little too simple—and the pieces fall into place a little too easily. But that sometimes strained simplicity doesn’t really take away from the easy-going appeal of this bittersweet drama.

Hateship Loveship isn’t what you’d expect from Kristen Wiig—but perhaps that’s a part of what makes it such an intriguing film. It’s quiet and unassuming—and a refreshing change of pace from the over-the-top craziness of movies like Bridesmaids. So even if you typically dislike Wiig’s comedic style, don’t shy away from this simple but sweet love story. You’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

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