The new Christmas rom-com ‘Love Hard’, which references iconic favorites ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Die Hard’ constantly throughout the film with a sweet tribute to ‘Love Actually’ s poster scene, is streaming on Netflix from November 5.
The title explores the perks and downsides of online dating and how focusing on physical attributes can terribly backfire once one meets the actual person behind the social media or profile mirror.
‘Love Hard’ is directed by Hernan Jimenez from a script penned by Danny Mackey and Rebecca Ewing. It stars ‘Vampire Diaries’ alum Nina Dobrev alongside Darren Barnet, Jimmy O. Yang, and Harry Shum, among many others.
Nina plays Natalie, a Los Angeles journalist who is looked down upon by her mean boss and pigeonholed as a not serious kind of writer who chronicles her unlucky dating encounters for a digital publication. She is more like a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw, only that she never gets to nut as her misery has been commodified into clickbait.
Despite her bad luck on the online dating apps, Natalie is a hopeless romantic and doesn’t give up trying to find her prince charming. So, she decides to transcend the Los Angeles borders in the hope of catching something or someone that suits her heart’s desires. At one moment, her prayers are answered, and she matches with a drop-dead gorgeous hunk named Tag, a role by Darren Barnet. The problem is that the hottie is based on the East Coast, meaning they can’t immediately have face-to-face dates.
Fortunately, it’s the holiday season, and Natalie decides to take some days off from her work and comes up with a plan to pay her new catch a surprise visit. But there is one little problem, Tag in person doesn’t match the Tag on the online profile.
It then dawns on Natalie that she has indeed been catfished by Josh, a role by Jimmy O. Yang, who has been posing as the good-looking Tag all along. But Josh and Tag are not strangers to each other as they are childhood friends. So to make it up to Natalie, Josh agrees to hook her up with the real Tag this time around and plenty of hilarious moments follow.
Josh, the catfisher, is a fantastic romantic protagonist. He’s a young Chinese American man who makes candles for a living. He lives in the basement of his family’s house with his hot brother. His passions and traumas are superbly explored throughout the movie. The writers crafted some really hilarious one-liners quips for Josh, such as when he says that in some cultures, ‘height and facial symmetry are repulsive in some cultures.’
Viewers learn that Josh is very competitive, and this dynamic is explored when he’s pitted against his brother, who is as handsome as Tag. This scenario makes audiences love Josh more and want to root for him.
Dobrev’s character Natalie though, comes across as a bit underdeveloped. Audiences find out that she has an unhealthy attachment to perfection, which, of course, is impacted by her job, and this effect trickles down to her love life.
It is actually Josh who forges this story forward, with Natalie ending up as a mere prop for his narrative. In portraying a female character who is insanely attractive but lacks substance, the movie undermines its own premise.
However, the actress’s performance is excellent nevertheless. Her strength is in her fetching unpretentiousness. She is perfect to embody a role that someone’s mom would instantly like and isn’t taken aback by Josh’s hilarious grandmother, a part embodied by Takayo Fischer.
When Josh agrees to set up Natalie with Tag, she is determined to win him over. The looks are not the main issue as she is really gorgeous; however, these are two different people. Tag is quite the opposite of the characteristics enlisted during the online chats, which made Natalie fall for him in the first place. To impress Tag and hopefully make him fall for her, she develops this fake person, which is exhausting to keep up with.
The hook-up with Tag, though, doesn’t come cheap as Natalie has to pretend that she and Josh are dating in order to impress the latter’s family. As expected, the ruse spirals out of control, and the resolution is both typical and weak.
‘Love Hard’ can be viewed as yet another version of the infamous Cyrano de Bergerac plot where Mr. Wrong has the wrong looks but is smooth with the words who is drawn into a scheme to help the conventionally attractive person, they fancy for themselves land another equally conventionally attractive person.
Casting Yang, who is best known as a stand-up comic, as the lead, the filmmakers miss the chance to capitalize on his wit. This doesn’t mean that Yang isn’t good-looking enough for the role, but this movie puts him in a physical appearance contest with the other two actors Barnet and Shum. The latter plays his brother.
These two men have been marketed as sex symbols. Hence it would have been great to at least ramp up the jokes for Yang to compensate for the appearance gap.
Something worth noting in this feature is that Yang and Dobrev do not share a single spark, no romance chemistry at all. And the writers don’t feed the two actors much in an attempt to make them an item. Hence audiences can’t even root for them as a couple.
‘Love Hard’ is a cautionary example of what happens when one isn’t specific about exactly what they want in a love tale that isn’t basically a meeting of strangers but people coming from different backgrounds. It encourages audiences to look beyond the person’s physicality and gives a chance to the personality and other attractive things about a person that aren’t visible at face value.
Overall, Love Hard is a great movie to watch this holiday season and a refreshing look at Dobrev away from her breakthrough role. It is worth checking out.