Netflix is kickstarting its Christmas rom coms early with Hernán Jiménez’s Love Hard . Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev), a columnist living in Los Angeles, is in search of finding her “second half,” and after a series of bad dates, is dejected and tired of the men in Los Angeles. However, she is smart enough to turn these terrible experiences into drama-filled columns for her editor Lee (Matty Finochio).
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Natalie’s best friend jumps to her rescue and suggests that she change the settings of her dating app to show men who live far away from LA, and Natalie obliges. Soon, she comes across the profile of Josh (Jimmy O. Yang), an Asian-American who speaks three languages, loves the outdoors and lives 3000 miles away from her. They match. Soon the pair start talking over calls, they exchange intimate details about their personal lives, and even start falling asleep together... virtually.
Natalie is convinced that he might be the real deal. During one of their conversations, Josh mentions how he wished Natalie was with him for Christmas. So of course, Natalie decides to grant him his wish and flies to meet him... only to realise she has been catfished by an introverted man who lives in his parent’s basements and loves making candles. Josh confesses that he had indeed been using his best friend, Tag’s (Darren Barnet) pictures on his profile.
- Director: Hernán Jiménez
- Cast: Nina Dobrev, Darrent Barnet, Jimmy O. Yang
- Storyline: A columnist flies to a small town in time for Christmas to meet her match from a dating app, only to realise she has been catfished
- Duration: 105 minutes
Natalie, instead of pitching yet another ‘date gone wrong’ story to her editor and moving on, decides to stay back and scheme with Josh. They strike a deal; Josh promises to help Natalie get with Tag, on the condition that Natalie pretends to be Josh’s girlfriend until Christmas.
After an embarrassing toast at an engagement party, an unproblematic rip-off of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and stealing all the newspapers in the town, the movie does end up serving us a happy ending. It seeks to drive home the point that a person is more than the looks and that one must never judge people, a moral some gazillion others movies have already stressed upon. But it’s not entirely a terrible watch; the redeeming qualities include Dobrev and Yang’s on-screen camaraderie, as well as a Love Actually -themed ending.
What Love Hard does get right, is its commentary on dating, especially through the lens of dating apps in the current day. However, its attempt to address the ingenuity and catfishing on apps by asking people to just be genuine and get over their “flaws” falls on deaf ears. It is just not convincing.
The film also leaves one wondering if it takes a step too far in rationalising catfishing, and portraying the phenomenon as harmless and something people can get away with. Natalie is given little to no agency and she is often shown as a woman whose personality centres around finding love. One fails to understand how Josh and his brother mend their ways towards the end, especially when they have had a toxic relationship literally their entire lives.
It looks like the rom-com decided to bake too many things at once... and ends up giving us some under-baked and over-burnt goodies for Christmas. Nonetheless, if you want something to play in the background after a gruelling day of work to help you rewind, Love Hard is a good place to start your season of love.
Love Hard is currently streaming on Netflix