NOW ON HULU! The Hater is Joey Ally’s debut film. As the writer-director-lead actor of this satire, Ally has created a delightful, potentially healing blend of political and romantic comedy. She stars as Dorothy, a young environmentalist and speechwriter who loses her job writing for a Democratic senator. Bummed at losing her bully pulpit to frame her environmental and center-left politics, Dorothy moves back in with her grandfather (Bruce Dern) in Alabaster. Now in rural Texas, Dorothy stews over the underwhelming move her career arc have taken.
There, Dorothy learns her antagonist from day school, Brent (Ian Harding), is running for local office. After a hilarious mishap at a convenience store, where she inadvertently becomes a cover girl for gun rights by tripping into apprehending a robber with a gun, she becomes a local celebrity. Determined to milk this fame, Genie (Nora Dunn), the head of the town’s chamber of commerce, seeks to convince Dorothy to run for office.
Seeing a certain synergy, Dorothy agrees to primary Brent as a republican. Since her hometown of Alabaster is strongly Republican, she reasons she can win simply by aligning herself with the right-wing political party, all the while intending to forward her environmental ideals into policy.
“…[Dorothy] inadvertently becomes a cover girl for gun rights by tripping into apprehending a robber with a gun…”
As a satire, The Hater is absolutely delightful. Ally walks us through the surreal and ridiculous nature of what it takes to be seen as a “serious” candidate in this political climate with heart and humor. The need to be “serious” includes Dorothy’s best friend Glenn providing her a makeover. The one-liners, potshots, and sound bites are all delivered with a vicious sense of humor I greatly enjoyed.
Since the production is almost entirely a one-woman act, it’s important to review Joey Ally in all three of her roles. The script is excellent and brimming with the sort of loving yet biting satire required to portray the ridiculous antics of the current political class on all sides. The message at the core that sometimes hugging your loved ones is as important as saving the rainforest is desperately needed right now. The pandemic ripped families even more asunder than even politics could. People have to be reminded that we are all in this together, regardless of one’s political, spiritual, or cultural affinities.
The direction is solid. As it is Ally’s first feature-length effort, it’s clear she and her cinematographer, T.J. Williams Jr., worked on basic conventions of staging scenes. The film, therefore, flows fairly smoothly. However, the acting is a little uneven. The only person who truly delivers a great performance is Bruce Dern, as he brings low-key power to his scenes. This was entirely expected. As long as you point Dern in the right direction, he’ll give you his all. While some of the supporting cast is only okay, Ally is quite good as an actor. Her sense of comic timing is excellent, and I enjoyed the arc her character experiences. She turns Dorothy into a delightful central character.
Generally, I found The Hater charming and lovable. If you’re looking for a Capra-esque satire to take your mind off the crazy clown world demonstrated by national politics, seek this out. It will be a wonderful investment of your time.
"…charming and lovable."