Film Critic Zenna Hussain is disappointed with the predictability of Netflix’s latest Christmas romcom, Love Hard
Netflix’s newest instalment in a series of increasingly bad romantic comedies, Love Hard, is yet another justification and almost glorification of catfishing. This is despite a star-studded cast with Nina Dobrev, of The Vampire Diaries infamy, Darren Barnet, recently famous from Netflix series Never Have I Ever, and comedian Jimmy O. Yang. To give Netflix credit, the film is almost entirely what you would expect for its marketing as a Christmas romcom and its extended trailer.
Similarly to several other recent Netflix movies – Sierra Burgess is a Loser, The Half of It – Love Hard is a charming tale about the power of love, and consequences of shallowness. This is, of course, only relevant to the more attractive person in the relationship, as the (repeatedly mentioned) moral of the film is to look on the inside, and not to not catfish, as this is quite easily forgiven in the film.
The film follows Natalie (Nina Dobrev), a beautiful, unlucky-in-love journalist, the only job available to romcom heroines apparently, writing a column about her dating woes. After meeting the seemingly perfect Josh (Darren Barnet) on a dating app, and only two weeks of calls, texts and conversation, Natalie decides to travel to his hometown Lake Placid to surprise him for Christmas, only to find out she has been cat fished. After meeting the real Josh (Jimmy O. Yang), they hatch a plan: in return for Josh’s help to get the attention of Tag – the person Natalie thought she was talking to, Natalie and Josh will pretend to date for Josh’s family.
For those who like to know what to expect, the film is impressive in that it does not seem to have a speck of originality and has a very predictable storyline. There is the quirky main character, the kiwi allergy mentioned early that is obviously aggravated when meeting the secondary love interest, and the platonic faux relationship and friendship that leads to falling in love. Ignoring the problems with Netflix’s insistence on non-platonic opposite sex friendships, Love Hard explores the trope of the attractive secondary love interest whose only flaw seems to be being too attractive. Tag is therefore dismissed, both to Natalie and the movie itself, despite sweet dates focused on interests Natalie had lied about having, introducing her to his parents and, unlike Josh, not being a catfish.
The characters’ one-dimensionality, with the quirky girl who changes her whole personality for a man (eating meat on the date as a vegetarian), the attractive lead who has obvious flaws so the audience can relate to the other character in the love triangle more, and the antisocial Asian guy with the weirdly invested family, does not do the film any favours.
Saying that, this reveals the film’s most jarring theme- its references to race and Asianness in general. Josh is shown as an antisocial loser who lives in his mother’s basement, who is only failing on the dating app because of his poorly chosen pictures, and nothing to do with the fact that Asian men are statistically the least likely to get matches. The film even broaches the subject, only to summarily drop it, after Nina Dobrev’s character awkwardly and unnecessarily claims her Asian ex-boyfriend was great in bed, ending the race issue. Much like most of the film, this is fine as long as you do not actually examine it too deeply. The film might not be angling for an Oscar, but did we really need another undersexualized Asian man joke?
Arguably, the culmination of the movie is Natalie’s apology to Josh Love Actually-style, as it fully sums up the movie; cliché, Christmassy and copied. I will give it to the movie that at least this scene is at least reciprocal, unlike the original. The film does have its moments: the care’s home discussion of dating apps, and how to catfish was unnecessarily entertaining, and the speech that Josh gives does go some way in redeeming him, not to mention the family dynamics which are both heart-warming and lovely to watch. The highlight of the film though has to be the duet between Natalie and Josh of Baby It’s Cold Outside, taken in a new feminist direction, showing the (admittedly slightly lacklustre) chemistry between the leads.
As with most romcoms, the film is aware and lives up to the expectations of the genre – with an overbearing family, cheap jokes, and an entirely predictable story. Certain jokes and plot points ought to be ignored, which is fine in older works written and produced in more problematic times, but in 2021, there could have been more nuance. The film delivers what it says it is, and entertaining, if not show stopping, performances from a stellar cast does save it from absolute monotony. If you and your housemates are bored at Christmas, and want a cute, feel-good love story, then this is the film for you.
Love Hard is available now on Netflix
In the mood for more festive romcoms? Have a read of these Redbrick Film articles: