SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 28, 2010
Starring: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green
Rudy (Chris Doubek) is a failure, especially when compared to his younger brother Paul (Alex Karpovsky) who is a best-selling author of young adult fantasy novels. Living out of his car, we are first introduced to Rudy as he hopelessly scrambles to find a place to shower and dress before work – a series of scenes that tactfully balances comedy with sympathy (quite an impressive feat pulled off by writer-director Brian Poyser and actor Chris Doubek). We learn a lot about Rudy in these first few minutes. Despite this horrendous situation, he does not want to give up on his failed marriage or lose his job; though his overwhelming tenaciousness teeters on psychotic (especially in the eyes of others). It seems that no matter what Rudy does, his life flushes deeper and deeper down the toilet (you’ll get that pun later).
When Paul – of whom Rudy is hatefully resentful and extremely jealous – arrives in town for a book tour, Rudy attempts to disguise the fact that he is now wifeless, homeless, and jobless – all traits that raise the older brother’s failure quotient. Rudy even goes as far as begging his ex, Diana (Heather Kafka), to assist in the charade but the attempt is futile and Paul sees right through it.
Rather than see his older brother on the streets, Paul puts his brother up at a fancy hotel in the hopes that Rudy can find a job and a new home. Rudy has a slightly different plan – he sees this as a perfect opportunity to finish his novel, Lovers of Hate.
When Rudy discovers that the next stop for Paul is a friend’s vacation home in Park City, Utah to finish his next book, Rudy decides that he wants to tag along no matter how Paul feels about it. They can both work on their novels together – how perfect would that be? But Paul has other secret intentions for his time in Park City – there is a certain woman who has recently become “available” and what better way to seduce her than inviting her to the exclusive Park City vacation home. Rudy, as usual, does not take no for an answer; he drives to Park City and stumbles upon Paul’s sexual escapade.
Unaware that Rudy is in Park City – let alone the same house – Paul and his lover continue on with their tryst. When Rudy “announces” his presence in the house by leaving “presents” in the downstairs toilet (the first of which may have been an accident, but the second is quite purposeful) an absurd game of hide-and-seek ensues as the brothers (especially Rudy) de-evolve into children. Because we (and Paul) remain unsure of what Rudy’s true intentions are, Lovers of Hate promptly evolves into a cat-and-mouse thriller. All we (and Paul) know is that Rudy is a scorned man who has been pushed to his emotional limits; he has nothing else to lose, so at this point in the game absolutely anything is possible.
Lovers of Hate is an exquisitely written and acted film about two highly competitive brothers who do not get along. (You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.) The film itself seems relatively simple (three characters, two locations) – yet Poyser’s directorial vision is complex and even somewhat unconventional, at least in Hollywood terms. (I find Poyser’s honest portrayal of relationships, nudity and sex to be akin to Joe Swanberg). In anyone else’s hands, my bet is that Lovers of Hate would have been an absurdly unbelievable comedy; but Poyser’s tactfulness and maturity keeps the events and characters grounded in reality. Lovers of Hate is ridiculously funny at times but it is also a thrillingly emotional roller coaster ride – a cinematic achievement that few directors and actors have pulled off as successfully as Poyser, Doubek, Karpovsky and Kafka have done here.