Sundance Review: Lovers Of Hate
Many independent films take place in a single location out of necessity-- location scouts don't come for free, and if it's just you and your buddies and an HD cam making the magic happen, you'd better be able to control the circumstances around you. With his third film Lovers of Hate, director Brian Poyser takes the relatively limited space of a Park City ski mansion and uses it to play out a very adult, very emotionally fraught game of hide-and-seek.
It's hard to explain exactly why Rudy (Chris Doubek) winds up in this mountain home at the same time that his estranged girlfriend Diana (Heather Kafka) and brother Paul (Alex Karpovsky) are using it for a weekend assignation. After all, Diana has just kicked Rudy out of their shared home in Austin, not long after Paul swung through town on the latest book tour for his bestselling series of fantasy children's novels. It takes about 20 minutes of setup in Austin to get all three characters up to Park City, and no matter how much of a sitcom-style coincidence it sounds like, it's in the ski house that Lovers of Hate starts heading toward pure comic genius.
Rudy arrives at the house when no one is home, and when Paul and Diana show up to have frantic sex on the couch, Rudy makes a key decision-- he hides. At first lurking in the background just to figure out how on earth these two people have betrayed him, he eventually starts to strike back subtly, and childishly. Even as Diana and Paul try to figure out exactly what this affair means for all three of them, Rudy's presence in the house adds an unavoidable tension-- things are so much worse, and so much more awkward, than anyone seems to understand.
The title Lovers of Hate refers to Rudy's unwritten novel that seems to only exist as a rebuke to Paul's successful writing career; the spectre of that novel, and the actual inspiration for Paul's own books, give the movie a rich backstory that goes largely unspoken but understood by the audience. All three actors worked on developing their characters for over a month before filming, and the lived-in quality of their performances adds significantly to Poyser's tight script. Rudy and Diana express in tense, wordless scenes all the infinite years of unhappiness between them, while Paul's exterior bravado frequently gives way to the novelist's own self-doubts-- without a word in the script to spell it out for us.
The slapstick and closing-doors farce elements of Lovers of Hate make it ripe for a mainstream Hollywood remake, which would inevitably iron out all the film's nuances, but might also inspire more people to track down this tiny and clever movie. It's almost enough to make me wish some giant studio would pick up the rights; Lovers of Hate, very simply, deserves to be seen in any way possible.
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