Based on Alice Munro’s short story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” Liza Johnson’s indie drama-comedy “Hateship Loveship” shows a side of Kristen Wiig that’s always been in plain sight. Under the exterior of a comedienne, with crack timing, has always nestled the heart of a Serious Actress. She invests. But as Johanna, a shy woman introduced into a complicated Iowa household as a caregiver, Wiig is surrounded by an all-star cast of short-story-style eccentrics and needy, damaged souls that outshine her crabbed performance. Ordinariness doesn’t suit Wiig: Johnson’s understated progression of incidents in her story seems hardly to have a dramatic pulse.
(There’s a rotten dramatic complication, a written ventriloquism, that remains on the page in a library book in the back of the stacks.) And that’s despite having Nick Nolte as the old man who has her tending after girl-who-lost-her-mom Hailee Steinfeld as well as modestly charming ex-con meth-head father Guy Pearce. Christine Lahti plays a local gossip, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is briefly present, going full, strung-out Jennifer Jason Leigh. If this is a Cinderella story, I’m sorry I went to the ball. A story centered on glorious natural talent Steinfeld? That could have been magic. With Sami Gayle. 102m. (Ray Pride)
“Hateship Loveship” plays Friday, April 18 through May 3 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.