Author Alice Munro’s extensive bibliography is exquisite. In her writing, Munro explores some of the biggest questions in life – and she always enlightens readers. Sounds heady, doesn’t it? So how does wacky “Saturday Night Live” alum and “Bridesmaids” star Kristen Wiig fit in here? Recent news of the forthcoming movie adaptation gleaned from a collection of Munro's stories answers that question.
The stories in Munro’s collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, revolve around a nanny (Wiig) who takes on responsibility for a rebellious teenager, played by Hailee Steinfeld. Also in the mix is the teenager’s grandfather, played by Nick Nolte, and the girl’s father, played by the ever-morphing Guy Pearce.
Can we pause for a moment to recognize how eclectic this group of actors is? Comedienne Kristen Wiig has proven her comedic prowess time and time again. Her emotional depth, however, hasn’t been as evident. Its placement in her work has consistently sat somewhere on the plane of denouement leading to a film’s conclusion. Hailee Steinfeld stole the show in The Coen Brothers’ 2010 “True Grit” opposite manpower-trio Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. She’s proven picky since then, having committed only to a Carlo Carlei-directed remake of “Romeo and Juliet,” another music-centric film by the writer and director of “Once,” and the sure-to-be-blockbuster “Ender’s Game.” Steinfeld proved her dramatic mettle in “Grit” – and it will be interesting to see how that experience translates to Obnoxious Teen Angst. Nick Nolte, in spite of his societal shortcomings, consistently delivers on film when it comes to characters wading in the waters of battered-and-beaten-by-life front. And finally, Guy Pearce: Is there anything Pearce can’t do? We expect that he’ll likely take the form of the glue that holds this quirky band of actors together. There’s no skepticism harbored here; more like an anthropological researcher, we’re curious to see how the characters all come together.
Director Liza Johnson has come to the project to take the reins. Her last feature-length film, “Return,” was quietly praised, including by The Guardian, who called it a “patient, precise drama, which brims with quiet disaffection.” If Munro’s writing had to be whittled down to a handful of descriptors, “patient” and “precise” would certainly make the list, which leaves us confident that Hateship, Friendship is in the right hands. Mark Poirier wrote the script for the film. Most recently, Mark wrote the screenplay from his novel Goats, for the eponymously named movie starring Vera Farmiga and David Duchovny. If you’ve seen it, you’ll agree that he’s a fine writer.
This film isn't the first to come out of this particular collection of Munro's; the 2006 film "Away From Her" was based on the story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, from Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. Julie Christie won a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, directed by Sarah Polley, as an old woman slipping into Alzheimer's. Polley was nominated for an Oscar for her writing and the film swept up at film festivals across the world.
"Hateship, Friendship" will begin shooting in late October in New Orleans. But do yourself a favor in the meantime: Familiarize yourself with the work of Alice Munro. With a cast as thought-provoking as this, you’ll want something solid to pin your opinions to, and Munro’s source material is just the thing.