Writer/director Joey Ally made no secret of her political leanings through “The Hater.”
The satirical film sees Ally play a progressive staunch man eager to turn Texas green faster than you can say, “Beto.” She’s the complex hero of the film, but Ally can’t help but deliver her ideological cards.
“The Hater” exhibits considerable sympathy for both the Lone Star Bang and the rock conservatives. What’s missing is a sense of humor and Hollywood’s ability to overcome anti-Trump narratives. It can take years or even decades for the healing process to begin.
The story opens with Ally’s Dorothy Goodwin losing her job as a campaign writer. She was arrested during a protest, accidentally burning an American flag in the process.
She mourned the loss of a great gig but not her actions, which quickly went viral. She’s jarring, angry, and the epitome of a constant scolding. Even freelance viewers can struggle to focus after her at first glance. She’s the Facebook friend you block to erase her 24/7 political ambitions.
Dorothy decides to start a new chapter in her life by moving back to Texas and reuniting with her estranged grandfather (Bruce Dern). There’s a pool of bad blood between the two, which Ally’s script conveniently overlooks in record time.
Then again, who wouldn’t be startled by Dorothy’s presence?
Clutching her vape pen and honey, Dorothy tries to revive her political career when she stumbles upon some shocking news. The boy who bullied her in school is now running for office in their hometown of Texas.
A Republican, of course.
She realized that an opaque voting law would guarantee a Democratic victory if the Republican candidate bowed during the campaign. So she buries her inner Bernie and runs against him, posing as a new kind of Republican.
She spends more time talking about Climate Change than Second Amendment.
It’s a complicated premise, no doubt, but Ally made some positive strides early on in the film. Dorothy isn’t stupid, so she massaged her eloquence to make it friendly with a kiss of her tough positivity. Messages not too hidden? We can turn Texas green, comrades Democrats, if we just adjust our message.
A detour by choice allows “The Hater” to argue abortion is a conservative principle (good luck with that), finding Ally in full lecture mode, albeit briefly.
“The Hater” offers several characters, including the excellent Meredith Hagner as Dorothy’s unexpected friend who breaks conservative stereotypes. For example, locals have nothing but love for Dorothy’s flamboyant gay best friend. Plus, Dern’s sly character mimics Fox News 24/7 but eagerly embraces his niece’s campaign.
Dorothy’s viral video scandal, coupled with years of far-left activism, will render her small town inoperable. Everyone knows everyone in her hometown, which means her political leanings can’t be a secret. It’s a Dwayne Johnson-sized plot hole that the movie won’t acknowledge.
“The Hater” could also use a puzzling exchange between Dern and his on-screen niece to help explain their growing relationship. Such a scene could do wonders for the wider political divide if handled well enough.
More lost opportunities?
We see very little Dorothy confront her old nemesis. Their conflict also involved some surprising sympathy on both sides, but that didn’t add to the much-needed friction missing elsewhere.
“The Hater” is not a progressive screed despite some overt messages. It’s also a bit dull.
The film’s resolution is too neat and impractical, where a more quirky ending might add irony. However, given the undeniable aspects of the indie franchise, “The Hater” is more balanced than many might expect.
It just needs to be better.
Hit or miss: “The Hater” offers a few wrinkles to the progressive political stereotype, but doesn’t have enough laughter or insight to make the satire soar.