Lovers of Hate‘s narrative centerpiece bears a striking similarity to an experience from my own life: Once, at college, where I lived in the campus dorm halls, I decided to prank one of my closest female friends by hiding beneath her bed. The intent was to harmlessly scare her. What nobody anticipated (her roommate and a mutual friend were in on the matter) was her off-campus boyfriend calling before I was able to fully execute said plan, leaving me trapped, as it was, until she was off the phone with him some hour and a half later. (Incidentally, it did succeed in making my prank that much more effective.)
Rudy Lucas (Chris Doubek), the sad, middle-aged soul who functions as Lovers of Hate‘s protagonist, finds himself in a situation some 8,000 times more awkward and hair-raising than my own, which is to say it’s about as squirm-inducing as a typical episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The opening scene embraces his failure at life to glib effect: Sans bathing for the past three days, he opts to shower in broad daylight via the manual spray nozzle at a car wash, later losing his job as a census collector for a similarly idiotic stunt (for all her poor decision making, at least Wendy of Wendy and Lucy knew to use a public restroom!). Rudy’s been recently dumped by his live-in girlfriend, Diana (a radiant Heather Kafka), and lives out of his car, but when his brother, Paul (Alex Karpovsky), a celebrity author, comes to town on a book tour, Rudy convinces Diana to maintain the illusion of their relationship for one more night. The ruse predictably fails.
After the latest round of shit hits the fan, Rudy takes advantage of his brother’s mountain getaway house to have some non-poverty time to himself, and his existence begins to parallel my own when Paul and Diana show up unexpectedly—and unexpectedly hot for each other. The heartbroken Rudy opts to remain unannounced, forcing him to sneak around quietly, sleep in closets, and leave his massive defecations unflushed (and to be potentially found by others), among other embarrassments. Only as his ploy becomes increasingly more desperate and elaborate does the film begin to congeal into something more than the sum of its parts, rapidly transforming from awkward—and unsatisfying—mumblecore comedy to a surprisingly intimate look at the ways people deal with hurt. Diana’s long-gestating feelings for Paul (and vice versa) devastatingly complicate Rudy’s asshole complex, and though his sporadic nastiness never feels wholly organic to the charismatic Doubek’s performance (particularly the intensely creepy capper to his invisible stay), there’s something to be said for any film that so resolutely refuses to warm up its characters. Larry David would be proud.