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Review: Kristen Wiig turns in understated dramatic role for ‘Hateship Loveship’

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Hateship Loveship

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There comes a time in nearly every highly successful comedian’s career that he or she takes a stab at more dramatic fare. You cannot blame comedians for taking the risk because (whether fairly or not) dramatic roles carry more respect and accolades, plus being able to successfully operate between genres certainly opens more doors.

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This results in a wide variety of outcomes – sometimes it redefines careers (Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill, Sandra Bullock), while others can transition back-and-forth (Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Steve Carell), while still others fail rather miserably (Mike Myers in 54, Dane Cook in Mr. Brooks).

The latest on this endless list is Kristen Wiig, fresh off a highly memorable nine-year run on Saturday Night Live and one of biggest comedy hits of the past decade, 2011’s Bridesmaids. Like most, she took the usual route from comedy to drama, first starting with comedy-drama hybrids (Friends with Kids, Girl Most Likely) then moving onto more distinguishably dramatic efforts, including the Sundance hit The Skeleton Twins and her latest film, Hateship Loveship.

Hateship Loveship follows Johanna Parry (Wiig), a shy and quiet caregiver, who starts a new job working for Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) and his teenage granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). A cruel trick by Sabitha and her friend lands the innocent and naïve Johanna in an awkward one-way relationship with Sabitha’s estranged father, Ken (Guy Pearce), a recovering drug addict. But Johanna’s newfound ambition and desire gives her courage to transform her awkward doom into real contentment.

Though bolstered by strong supporting turns (especially Pearce), the film is carried squarely by Wiig. Her character, at least in the beginning, is incredibly meek and lonely – seemingly a polar opposite of Wiig’s expected outlandish comedic nature. And to her credit, Wiig never takes this unassuming person and try to make her overtly funny or even the butt of a joke, which would certainly have been the easy way out. Johanna is genuinely forlorn and Wiig’s reserved performance is surprisingly confident. As the character grows through the film and gains her confidence, seemingly so does Wiig as a dramatic actress.

The film moves at a slow pace with an intimate, observing feel. Some of the side stories feel underdeveloped (the teenage girls’ deteriorating relationship, Mr. McCauley’s budding love life, etc.), but Johanna’s path is the focus and drive of the film. As the truth is kept hidden from her for an excruciatingly long time, the grimacing audience waits. When the reveal does finally come, it comes with somewhat surprising results. Despite the new environment and extreme embarrassment, Johanna’s newfound self-assurance forces her to make the best of the situation and her inherent mothering nature takes over.

Hateship Loveship is based on a short story by award-winning author Alice Munro. The film is directed by Liza Johnson and was filmed in New Orleans.

* * * out of 5 stars

Hateship Loveship opens Friday, May 9 at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center playing nightly at 9:00 p.m.

So come out to the Zeitgeist and take advantage of this unique film-going experience and all the Zeitgeist Arts Center has to offer. And by doing so, help support one the premier alternative arts center in the South. You can visit the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center’s website here.

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