Our Take: 3/5 Stars
With the holiday season well underway, Hernán Jiménez’s Netflix film “Love Hard,” attempts to win over romantic comedy fans with a modern love story filled with Christmas spirit.
The film follows Natalie (Nina Dobrev, “The Vampire Diaries”), a journalist in Los Angeles who has made a career out of writing about her terrible dating life. After many failed relationships, Natalie’s friend suggests expanding her scope and widening a dating app’s search radius to include the whole country. She then matches with a very charming man named Josh who lives in New York. Many long-distance conversations and phone calls later, Natalie considers Josh somewhat of a digital boyfriend and feels ready to leave behind her disastrous dating and settle down, especially after Josh playfully suggests that she come over for Christmas.
Natalie has never seen Josh outside of pictures but at her friend’s encouragement, and her boss’s belief that this relationship will make a great addition to the failed dating column, she decides to surprise visit the man of her dreams for the holidays. Things quickly go south when she arrives at Josh’s home, Natalie discovers that her perfect man is actually a catfish. The real Josh (Jimmy O. Yang, “Fantasy Island”) used his former friend Tag’s (Darren Barnet, “Never Have I Ever”) pictures to talk to women on dating sites since he’s never been successful being himself.
Duped and upset, Natalie is across the country with the “wrong” Josh. She decides to stay and pretend to be Josh’s girlfriend to impress his family and in return, he helps Natalie win over Tag, the real man whose photos she fell for.
The movie is a treat for fans of romantic comedy with its humor and endearing moments but like most films within that genre, it is predictable. Another downside is actually the title itself. “Love Hard” doesn’t give much information about the film nor does it catch the viewer’s attention. It should have been titled “Love Alert” after the fictional dating app in the movie or something similar to the famous rom-com “Love Actually” which is referenced throughout. There was also an unexpected musical element in the film, which was unnecessary and affected the plot’s believability.
“Love Hard” succeeds in unpacking some of the shallow aspects of online dating since attractiveness and aesthetics play a vital role in making connections via the internet. There is also the issue of authenticity and honesty with modern dating since so much information can be exaggerated or even faked as seen, with Josh’s catfishing.
The lesson to be learned is to be yourself and to not be someone you aren’t. It also highlights that to love is to love someone for who they are, for all their qualities both good and bad.
As for the cast, Dobrev and Yang have great chemistry and bring a realistic feel to their characters with their laid-back and comedic rapport. This is especially present during Josh and Natalie’s sweet moments, where the relationship slowly grows between the two characters.
While its plot is simple, “Love Hard” differs from other rom-coms by having a diverse cast and staying away from some of the genre’s cliches, like love at first sight or mad dashes to the airport to confess one’s love.
It does not attempt to revolutionize the rom-com genre, but it is an entertaining addition that is an easy watch.