Friday, March 18, 2022

The Hater: Movie Review

A political movie trying to present a balanced message.
Political movies are always going to be divisive, that’s just the nature of the genre. The Hater with that title, it’s liberal and libertarian politics and a lead character that seems to be built off of Twitter, probably has an even tougher hill to climb. But The Hater is legitimately funny has surprisingly well written characters and makes an obvious attempt to not talk down to or insult Republicans.   2022

Directed by: Joey Ally

Screenplay by: Joey Ally

Starring: Joey Ally, Meredith Hagner, Ian Harding, Bruce Dern

The opening is what hooked me in. Dorothy Goodwin as an idealistic child is running for Class President just on the general idea of the greater good. Her opponent is Brent Hart he’s running on a platform of fries for everyone and that Dorothy is fat and farts. You just can’t beat that. Now turn to adult Dorothy (Joey Ally). She’s the extreme version of any random liberal activist on social media you can think of – she’s fighting for the environment, for workers’ rights, to stop arresting immigrants at the border. She’s fighting for every social cause and often in an insane manner. She argues with the definition of a psycho to turn it into a good thing. When her boss suggests she takes the weekend to just relax, she’s flabbergasted. “We’re burning all of our resources and destroying the planet – how am I supposed to relax? How can any normal person relax?” And I get her. The film does a fantastic job as establishing Dorothy to be extreme enough to be funny but also relatable enough for people to understand where she’s coming from.

After quitting that job on principle, she’s back home. In Texas. Texas almost feels like the lazy choice to set a political movie in, but the film also needs a silly premise, so Texas it is. Back home, Dorothy’s childhood bully Brent Hart (Ian Harding) is running for state legislature and he’s going to win because he’s hot, conservative, popular and a Republican. Dorothy’s extreme brain hatches the hair-brained idea to run as a Republican, beat him, and then drop out leaving a Democrat in power in the process. As plots go in political movies, this is silly and immature and the humour established at the beginning deserves better than this. But now is also when the characters get to shine.

Meredith Hagner needs to be supported in everything she does. She has fantastic comedic timing and has the ability to pull-off a wide range of characters. Here she’s actually used for the more dramatic and emotional moments of the film but it works because her character has a great message. Dorothy as a Republican in Texas obviously has to present as pro-life despite her and Greta (Hagner) being pro-choice. How that message played out is well written and does great service to real women like Meredith Hagner’s Greta – Texan women who are religious, who have put family-first, are Republican because that’s what people in small Texas towns are, but she’s also smart and knows how to present her pro-choice attitude to not alienate the more devout Republicans.

Then we have Pretty Little Liars alumnus Ian Harding who appears to be playing the stereotypical bully because that’s all Dorothy is able to see him as. But Brent is a much more well-rounded character than that as people can be both bullies and victims, and Harding lends him the perfect amount of confidence that Brent is insufferable when needed to be but can also present his more reasonable and caring side.

And last but not least we have Bruce Dern has Dorothy’s grandfather whom she moves back home with. He is hilarious as the Fox News-watching grandpa who can spar with his nose-ring-wearing granddaughter.

The Hater plays it safe sometimes – with numerous references implying Trump is President but never mentioning him by name, never insulting Republicans or Republican beliefs, barely insulting Texans. While part of the point of the movie is Dorothy recognizing the good that people like Greta can bring to the world, it also feels like a movie that is scared to alienate half their viewers. But the movie is so very pro-liberal (and a few anti-government libertarian views) that the movie has already lost the conservative viewers long before it gets to its balanced message.