Adapted from Alice Munro’s 2001 short story, its saccharine premise may have been better contained in that format.
Kristen Wiig’s character is the type of person who’s always there, yet appears invisible to everyone around her. This sets the stage for a heartbreakingly cruel journey. Still, there is the potential for a fairy-tale romance in the most unlikely of places – this is Hollywood.
Hateship Loveship opens with Johanna (Wiig), who finds that the elderly woman she spent a rather large portion of her life caring for is dead. She gets a job working for Mr McCauley (Nick Nolte), cleaning house and taking care of his granddaughter, Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). It is here that Johanna meets Sabitha’s father Ken (Guy Pearce), a junkie based in Chicago, playing dad only if or when he feels like it.
As a practical joke, Sabitha and her friend Edith (Sami Gayle) write Johanna a love note, supposedly from Ken, turning the dim-bulb caretaker’s life upside down. The two begin a pen pal relationship, sending letters back and forth, before Johanna decides to pack up and leave, her eyes set on Chicago and her newfound love.
She arrives uncertain of herself. In an attempt to quell the awkwardness, she takes to cleaning and cooking for the strung-out Ken, who knows nothing of his daughter’s devious schemes. As a viewer, you feel ashamed for what she is going through and worried that she might not be able to escape from the situation.
The film has a number of twists and turns, but the audience may, at this point, already be indifferent to the big reveal.