Directed by: Jan Komasa
Premise: A Polish film. A young man (Maciej Musialowski) with a knack for social media works for a marketing firm that specializes in creating fake news and propaganda. In the midst of a political campaign, he stokes racial tensions and complicates his personal relationships.
What Works: The Hater is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that combines several contemporary phenomena into a single story. Tomasz is a disaffected white male who lashes out at the world. Instead of committing a mass shooting, the young man gets involved in the world of social media. A marketing company pays him to wreak havoc on people’s lives by smearing online influencers and spreading disinformation about products. Tomasz proves adept at this and finds his antisocial behavior to be rewarded by the company. The stakes escalate when Tomasz is assigned to create fake news for a political campaign. He seizes upon fears of Muslim refugees and connects with white supremacists, encouraging them to commit violence. Parallel with his professional activities, Tomasz has personal relationships with the candidate he’s smearing as well as a wealthy family who is active in the political scene. The filmmakers of The Hater intertwine the personal and the political in a way that makes sense and the picture is startling and complex. In many respects The Hater plays as a companion piece to 2010’s The Social Network; both are about the relationship between online interactions and real life and the way these platforms empower a similar kind of personality. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network has parallels in The Hater’s Tomasz, played by Maciej Musialowski. Neither of them are good guys but we can see how the world around Tomasz incentives his worst instincts. Like the cinematic portrayal of Zuckerberg, Tomasz’s professional behavior is linked to his personal relationships. And also like The Social Network’s portrait of Zuckerberg, Musialowski’s performance as Tomasz is carefully gauged; we see him grow from a pathetic loner into a monstrous troll.
What Doesn’t: The Hater follows the narrative of the single white male who is out for revenge because he’s socially isolated and spurned by a woman. This is a familiar scenario seen in movies like First Reformed and Taxi Driver and Joker and The Hater displays a few similarities. That’s most evident in the ending which has a few last minute surprises as well as an ironic twist. The trouble is that after some of these other films, the surprises and twists comes across conventional and even a bit cliché. There is enough in The Hater that is unique and specific to this particular time to give the familiar components a fresh and contemporary feel.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: The Hater is a startling portrait of corruption in the age of social media. While it draws on some familiar elements of lone wolf narratives, the filmmakers create an unsettling and contemporary story that is remarkable in its own right and makes a frightening companion piece to 2010’s The Social Network.
Episode: #817 (September 13, 2020)