A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Hater is a 2020 dark drama about a young man whose gifts for manipulation and social media sabotage lead to increasingly horrific results. In the climactic scene, a mentally unstable man with ties to extremist groups commits a mass shooting at a political rally. The mass shooting is filmed in real time, with shots of dead bodies sprawled across the floor and people shot and killed while trying to escape. Some of the deaths and injuries are shown up-close; some blood. Other scenes include men involved in a militia shooting assault rifles in a gun range at targets with caricatures of Islamic men painted on the bullseyes. Violent imagery from the internet. Lead character uses sex to get what he wants in two instances, and in the first, he spikes a drink of a gay man running for mayor after luring him into a nightclub in an effort to create a scandal that might ruin his campaign, career, and reputation. In another scene, the lead character has sex with his boss; brief nudity, male buttocks. Security guard shown watching pornography on his computer. A man shown from afar getting physically beaten by his mother. Some drug use, including cocaine. Wine, beer drinking. Cigarette smoking, vaping. A supervisor at an internet trolling agency bullies one of his subordinates, calling her "Pocahontas" because of her appearance. Frequent profanity, including "f--k." For older teens and adults, the movie should provoke discussion about the lead character's behavior, and how the internet and social media, in the wrong hands, can be used to destroy lives, sow the seeds of division, and amplify hatred.
What's the story?
In THE HATER, Tomasz (Maciej Musiałowski) has just been kicked out of law school for plagiarism, despite his tear-drenched vow to do better next time. Gabi, the attractive daughter of the family that's providing him with financial support, has ignored his request for Facebook friendship for several years now, and regards him as a creep. Undeterred, Tomasz finagles his way into attending a private "Silent Disco" party where attendees dance to music they only hear through their headphones, and finds Gabi to be much more affectionate while she's on drugs. At this same party, Tomasz meets Beata, an older woman who he knows runs a PR firm that's actually an internet troll farm. After convincing her to take on an assignment involving the destruction of the reputation of an internet celebrity, Tomasz proves to be gifted and resourceful at his new job. Impressed, Beata gives him a much bigger task: Take down a progressive and increasingly popular candidate named Pawel Rudnicki running for mayor of Warsaw. Determined to succeed at all costs, Tomasz first infiltrates and hacks Rudnicki's campaign servers. Meanwhile, Gabi, after initially becoming attracted to Tomasz, dumps him once it's revealed that he lied about still attending law school. Heartbroken and angry, Tomasz channels all of his energy into his work -- as he makes inroads into causing serious damage to Rudnicki's campaign and reputation, he also pretends to get involved with right-wing extremist groups, finding ways to amplify racial and immigrant hatred on Facebook while setting up competing marches and countermarches between progressives and fascists. As Rudnicki's campaign continues to gain ground, Beata, as well as the monied interests channeling the dark money to fund the business, are losing patience. Desperate to succeed, Tomasz begins to try to enlist a mentally unstable white supremacist to undertake a mission that, if carried out, will lead to horrific consequences.
Is it any good?
Disturbingly relevant, this movie is an incredible and incredibly dark drama whose antihero reveals horrors about our world that are, sadly, too easy to comprehend, but difficult to confront. This antihero, Tomasz, evokes antiheroes past and present like Travis Bickle, Alex DeLarge, and, when his crocodile tears really start to flow, even Saul Goodman. The societal ironies and ethical gray areas of these three iconic anitheroes are on full display in Tomasz, and for days after viewing it, it's easy to get lost in wondering whether the sociopathy was there all along, created by society, or if it's a case of both. True, this has been a debate viewers have been having since at least The Sopranos, but these dichotomies are heightened when an antihero like Tomasz gets to operate in a world where the internet, technology, and social media are tearing us apart just as much as they bring us together.
It's fair to call The Hater the Taxi Driver of the 2020s. There are plenty of similarities -- a disconnected loner alienated in the world and obsessed with a woman -- and the jump from the mayoral candidate in The Hater to one Senator Charles Palatine isn't that far. And in the same way that Taxi Driver is as unforgettable a portrait as any of the decadent dying NYC of the 1970s, The Hater captures the precarious zeitgeist of this era of reemerging fascist/nationalist movements in Europe and the United States in the political world, and our growing technological disconnect (as beautifully conveyed in the scene at the "Silent Disco" of dancers in a club each with their own headphones) in our personal worlds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about antiheroes. What are the qualities of antiheroes in movies, and how does Tomasz fit the description? Who are some other examples of antiheroes in movies?
How does The Hater address concerns such as the misuse of technology and social media?
Was the violence in this movie too much, or was it necessary in order to reveal the horrors that Tomasz's sociopathic behavior unleashed?
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