Love Hard Review – IGN

Love Hard debuts on Netflix Nov. 5.

It’s that time of the year again! Time to get cheesy with romance.

The countdown to Christmas, filled with tropey storylines and predictable endings from Lifetime, Hallmark, and Netflix has arrived. With the success of films like A Christmas Prince and The Princess Switch, Netflix, which has become one of the biggest churners of the genre, has released the first of its many holiday movies slated for this season, Love Hard. And there’s a lot to love in this rom-com, which succeeds in embracing the genre in all its corny glory.

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Directed by Hernán Jiménez and written by Danny Mackey and Rebecca Ewing, Love Hard follows disaster dating columnist Natalie (Nina Dobrev) as she believes she has finally found the man of her dreams through a dating app and decides to fly across the country to surprise him for Christmas. But when she arrives to meet “Josh” (Jimmy O. Yang), she finds out that she’s been catfished. The photo Josh used is actually of his completely unaware friend, Tag (Darren Barnet). Josh proposes a deal to Natalie: if she pretends to be his girlfriend in front of his family for the holidays, he will help her win Tag’s heart. Desperate for her “fairytale happy ending,” she agrees to the ruse. Of course, as Josh and Natalie play pretend boyfriend and girlfriend in front of his adoring parents and egotistical older brother, Owen (Harry Shum Jr.), they inevitably start falling for each other.

Following the predictable rom-com formula of “average joe and the hot girl” and the fake couple trope, Love Hard doesn’t offer much of anything new, but still finds a way to be charming. It’s also refreshing to see Yang, who is often cast as the funny side character, be the romantic lead. Unfortunately, Hollywood has frequently treated Asian men simply as foreigners or stereotypical nerds who never get the girl. Though it’s been nice to see gorgeous leading men like Henry Golding and Barnet himself get more time in the spotlight, it’s left little middle ground for the average Asian guy to find love on screen. That’s part of what makes Love Hard so interesting. Though Josh may not look like the standard love interest, the catfish reveal is not played up for laughs, which is such a relief. Instead, Josh is given some empathy and a chance to show Natalie that he’s still the guy she fell for through their many texts and phone conversations. Despite Josh’s lie, it’s hard not to root for him as Yang plays him with such humor and sincerity.

Dobrev is delightful as the vulnerable yet slightly awkward leading lady. There are some cringe moments where you feel for Natalie, but, given some questionable decisions she makes, she also kinda deserves it. Though the chemistry between Yang and Dobrev is hit or miss at times, the characters themselves are both flawed yet likeable people who do deserve a little Christmas romance. Even with the clichés and cheesy moments — like the leads singing an updated consensual version of the classic holiday song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” — it’s endearing to watch Josh attempt to woo Natalie with his creativity.

Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O. Yang are charming as two imperfect people trying to find love.

As for the supporting cast, they do provide some laughs and are given a bit of storyline to work with, but their roles never truly feel complete. Even though Barnet’s Tag is set up to be “the other man” in the story, the script never makes him out to be the bad guy… because, well, he isn’t. Tag is a genuinely nice guy who you feel for in the end, but because he’s not the main love interest, his feelings get brushed aside with no fulfilling conclusion. Shum is hilarious as the overzealous golden child of the family, but consistently plays up the competitive brother charade so much that it’s hard to believe that he is earnest when Josh is struggling. Even Natalie’s boss, Lee (Matty Finochio), who toes a thin line of the stereotypical sassy gay man character, is given a 180-degree turn from annoyingly demanding a story of the fiasco to suddenly becoming her voice of reason. Sure, it doesn’t make sense, but it does fulfill the purpose for plot reasons.

Love Hard is by no means reinventing the wheel, but for those looking for a feel-good Christmas rom-com, it works. It embraces the predictable formula by sprinkling in mentions of classic Christmas movies like Love Actually and Die Hard (yes, there’s a whole thing about that in the film) and including them into their own love story in the end. As cheesy as it is, fans of holiday films know exactly what they’re getting from this genre. This movie isn’t much different, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Read More: Love Hard Review – IGN

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