THE HATER – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Joey Alley is a sort of a one-woman band as she makes her feature directorial debut based on her own original screenplay while starring as the main character in The Hater. As Dorothy Goodwin a California resident, a dedicated environmentalist and a liberal speechwriter on a U.S. Senate campaign who loses her job after al protest about a flag goes wrong. This political comedy layers on such hot-button topics as gun control, abortions, climate change as well as support for our veterans. Dorothy soon realizes that her bullying childhood nemesis Brent (Ian Harding), who beat her when they both campaigned for class president, is now running for State Legislature as a GOP candidate.

She decides to return to her conservative hometown of Alabaster, Texas, and to run against Brent as a Republican opponent. She also reunites with her estranged grandfather Frank (Bruce Dern) and moves into his house. Dorothy also ends up bumping into her grade-school frenemy, Greta (Meredith Hagner). She brings Dorothy to a free luncheon at the Alabaster Women’s Chamber of Commerce, run by Genie (Nora Dunn), a town matriarch.

With Greta as her campaign manager, Dorothy gets to know the female citizenry of the town and listens to their concerns. When she stops an armed robbery at a local store, she rises at the polls. But what she really wants is to do a switcheroo and run in the guise of a Republican. But, instead, she finds a loophole that would allow her to force a victory for a Democratic female candidate, who has run four times before but never won.

But Dorothy’s real triumph is how she eventually embraces her family roots and reconnects to the people she left behind. That includes her late grandmother’s old clothes, which come in handy while on the campaign trail. She also comes to accept the too-soon death of her gay father, who was a popular teacher at her middle school. In doing so, she allows herself to love herself as well. Of course, the most important player is Dern, who is the kind of loving grandfather who can forgive and forget.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.