Generally speaking, when one goes into a movie, they have a certain set of expectations. If it’s a horror movie, they expect to be scared; if it’s a thriller, they expect to be on the edge of their seat; if it’s a love story, they expect to be moved, and so on and so forth. If you see Hateship Loveship, here’s my best piece of advice: don’t have any expectations.
Hateship Loveship is advertised as a rom-com, but it is far from it. In fact, it might as well be genre-less. This doesn’t mean it’s bad – in fact, it’s pretty good once you can accept that it’s not a comedy at all – but it does mean that if you go in to it expecting it to be your traditional quirky, funny love story, you’re going to end up disappointed.
Following a string of movies starring Kristen Wiig as an off-balance and somewhat pathetic female lead (Welcome to Me, Girl Most Likely), Hateship Loveship has Wiig playing the role of Johanna Parry, a caretaker/nanny reassigned to a new family after her elderly patient dies. Jo’s new job consists of watching over Sabitha, the teenage daughter of a noncommittal drug addict named Ken. Sabitha lives with her grandfather, Bill, and is almost always accompanied by her best friend, a sassy and self-confident girl named Edith.
Though Ken is only with the family briefly before going back to Chicago where he lives his drugged up lifestyle, he and Jo seem to hit it off on the first night she is there. Ken leaves a note behind with Sabitha for Jo before he leaves, thanking the nanny for her help with his kid. Kicking off a series of unexpected events, Sabitha and Edith use this opportunity of correspondence to begin “catfishing” Jo – when she responds to Ken’s letter, the two forge a response back, fabricating a love interest and convincing Jo that Ken is pining for her in the same way she pines for him.
Interestingly, Edith seems to drive this plot as Sabitha is conflicted about whether or not to continue it. Sabitha doesn’t like the way in which Edith’s impersonation characterizes her father, and also seems torn about teasing with Jo, a person who has only ever really been nice to her. Edith is a character that you never actually want to like, and her plan to humiliate Jo is never one that garners any laughs from the audience. Instead, for a good 45 minutes, viewers feel vastly uncomfortable watching Jo fall deeper and deeper into their trap, culminating in her decision to actually go out to Chicago and unite with Ken.
At this point in the movie, the pathetic nature of Wiig’s character combined with a plot that is even described by one of the characters as plain “mean,” you may be inclined to stop watching; don’t. I came very close to signing off, but instead decided to give the rest of the movie a shot – and once I got over the fact that it wasn’t going to be a rom-com, the characters weren’t going to ever be very inspiring, and the point of it all might not ever really be revealed, I was actually able to enjoy the film.
Jo moves out to Chicago and in a sweet, if not completely far-fetched, sequence of events, she and Ken are able to find a way to be compatible, acknowledging that Jo feels best when she is taking care of someone, and Ken feels best when being taken care of – and he does desperately need to be taken care of, especially as he quits drinking and drugs to become a so-called “better man.”
Hateship Loveship is not a love story. It’s not a comedy, a tragedy, or a drama either. Hateship Loveship is simply a story of people who need each other and who try to be the best version of themselves, even if those versions aren’t glamorous or exciting. Once you get over the initial hump of realizing that this movie isn’t going to be sensational, and may perhaps be entirely ordinary, it actually is worth the watch. Is there an inspiring, overarching message in the end? Not really – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile experience, and, much like Jo and Ken’s eventual relationship, it doesn’t mean you won’t end up enjoying it if you just give it a chance.