Sundance Film Festival

LOVERS OF HATE: an embittered sadsack and his smug younger brother

lovers_of_hate_2.jpgLOVERS OF HATE

Rudy (Chris Doubek), the less-than-lovable protagonist of Bryan Poyser’s dramatic-competition entry LOVERS OF HATE, is an embittered sadsack who can barely tolerate the sight of his smug younger brother, Paul (filmmaker Alex Karpovsky, last seen in Andrew Bujalski’s BEESWAX). An author of children’s novels who has apparently borrowed some ideas for his monstrously successful books from Rudy’s childhood fantasies, Paul drops into Austin for a reading and catches Rudy at low ebb: he’s out of work and has just been thrown out of the house by his wife, Diana (Heather Kafka), whom Paul has always had a crush on.

After a somewhat laborious setup, Poyser’s queasy comedy transports its central trio to — of all places — Park City, and in the process morphs into a muted, slowed-down bedroom farce, one that’s less about plot convolutions than psychological mind games. Rudy decides to pay Paul a surprise visit at the luxury ski lodge where he has holed up to write, and before he can announce his arrival, realizes that Paul has invited Diana there for a romantic weekend. Accordingly, Rudy spends much of the film tip-toeing around the enormous condo, scurrying into closets and hiding behind doors. It’s a situation that allows him to fully indulge his masochism (watching his brother and his wife have sex, eavesdropping on conversations in which he’s described as a joyless loser) as well as his sadism (he vengefully deletes Paul’s new work off his laptop and pits the new lovers against each other by hiding the groceries and leaving the toilet unflushed).

Poyser scores some nasty laughs and exploits the inherent creepiness of the fly-on-the-wall scenario (Paul’s books, we’re reminded a few times, are about “invisible kids”), but the viewer is likely to realize its limitations even before Rudy does. That said, the squirmy humor is a bit one-note, and a more controlled visual scheme would have ratcheted up the suspense. Still, thanks in no small part to the very game and vanity-free actors (all three are terrific), LOVERS OF HATE leaves an impression — it’s nice to see a film that doesn’t feel the need to redeem or condemn the bad behavior of its characters.