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It’s sweater weather, warm drinks, and, of course, holiday movies. With a modern narrative of a dating app match gone wrong, Hernán Jiménez’s “Love Hard” tries its utmost to win over romantic comedy enthusiasts ahead of this year’s festivities. Some scenes are more enjoyable than others, but ultimately, this cookie-cutter rom-com delivers exactly what its subgenre expects.
Natalie (Nina Dobrev) is a lady in Los Angeles who has made a living by blogging about her awful love life on a cringe-worthy website. After a succession of particularly bad failures, a friend expands the search radius of her dating app to include the entire country. Finally, she matches with a cheerful face who is fun to chat to and pleasant. After a particularly lengthy conversation, the long-distance digital boyfriend expresses his desire for Natalie to be present for Christmas. Also, you must try to play this Which Love Hard Character Are You quiz.
Which Love Hard Character Are You?
Natalie travels across the nation to Lake Placid, New York, at the behest of her friend and boss (the latter wants another disastrous dating column out of the experience). But when she arrives, Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) does not resemble the photos he sent her. After being ignored on dating apps for so long, he used the images of an old friend, Tag (Darren Barnet), to talk to women. Natalie, outraged but now stranded in Lake Placid without her suitcase, decides to stay and pose as Josh’s girlfriend in order to impress his family. In exchange, Josh offers to assist her in winning over the man whose images she initially fell for, even if it’s as dishonest as what Josh did to her.
“Love Hard” has its adorable moments, even if it lacks the yuletide excitement I had hoped for. Almost every scene involving Natalie, Josh, and Josh’s family—which includes Grandma (Takayo Fischer), his father Bob (James Saito), step-mom Barb (Rebecca Staab), and competing brother Owen (Harry Shum Jr.) and his wife Chelsea (Mikaela Hoover)—is a winner, ramping up the pressure on the charade. However, Daniel Mackey and Rebecca Ewing’s script occasionally goes too far, veering from “how lovely, how funny” comedy to cheap cringe. This is possibly most obnoxious when Natalie downs shots at a pub to gain some alcohol bravado before attempting to seduce Tag. Unfortunately, the shots contain a fruit to which she is fatally allergic, and her face inflates as a result of the reaction. It’s a mortifying sequence staged for laughs, but it feels strangely cruel in the context of an otherwise fairly delightful comedy.
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Another peculiar aspect of “Love Hard” is that the narrative appears to have drawn inspiration for some of its plot points from current events. Online dating is common, and catfishing (a person pretending to be someone else online) is so widespread that MTV devoted an entire series to it. Josh explains to Natalie that he catfished her because Asian males may face discrimination on dating platforms. Natalie’s complaints about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” appear to be lifted directly from the plethora of articles that appear to sprout up on a regular basis regarding the song’s lyrics. Her repeated claims that “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas movie? The same thing. While current, these elements don’t appear to fit in with the tale or characters as well as some of the other aspects of the film. These things appear to have been included in a later draft.
“Love Hard” may be a more explicitly Christmas film than “Die Hard,” but I doubt it will garner as many repeat viewings. Dobrev and Yang give their characters an emotional edge, but it’s not enough to save them from the predictable moments, the simplistic comedy mistakes, and the awkward set-ups. Some of the film’s internal logic falls out as well, such as Natalie’s strong objection to hearing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on the radio but staying to help the guy who lied to her. To enjoy the thrill that “Love Hard” aims to provide, you must purchase the entire sleigh trip, no matter how bumpy it gets. Others may love the voyage more than this Scrooge, but that’s why these films are released season after season.
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