Love Hard (2021)

Love Hard
Director: Hernan Jimenez
Writer: Daniel Mackey, Rebecca Ewing
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet, James Saito,Rebecca Staab, Harry Shum Jr., Althea Kaye, Mikaela Hoover
Seen on: 13.5.2022

Content Note: ableism/lookism/fatmisia – don’t exactly know how to classify it

Natalie (Nina Dobrev) writes a column about her dating experiences. Usually it’s about how aweful they are. But when she starts chatting with Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) online, it seems that she has finally been lucky. Except for the fact that he lives on the other side of the country. As Christmas comes nearer and their relationship deepens, Natalie decides to throw caution overboard. She simply books a flight to surprise Josh. But when she gets to Josh’s family home, she discovers that Josh has catfished her: he used photos of Tag (Darren Barnet) to lure her in. She is mortified, but the two strike a deal: she will pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays, and he will help her meet the actual Tag.

I don’t usually watch Christmas movies in May, but I honestly overlooked that this was a Christmas movie in the first place. Anyhow, maybe it was the time mismatch, but Love Hard didn’t quite give me the fuzzy feelings I was looking for.

The film poster showing Natalie (Nina Dobrev) holding a cell phone. Below her we can see two drawn cell phones, one showing Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) smiling awkwardly, and the other Tag (Darren Barnet) looking ruggedly handsome.

Love Hard is a bit all over the place, at least where it doesn’t stick rather religiously to genre tropes. Nina’s professional life feels right out of the 00s. Who can still afford to live of a column anyway? As if to make up for it, the film takes up online discourse and sprinkles it on top of the dialogues, but that just makes it feel more dated (is anybody really still debating whether Die Hard is a Christmas film? And how many Christmasses have we now spent with the “”Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has really creepy lyrics” discussion?).

It speaks to the general awkwardness of the film that doesn’t quite come together. But it does have its moments, I won’t deny that. The film really comes alive when Josh leans into the competition with his brother Owen (Harry Shum Jr.), discovering an energy that feels a little absent everywhere else. And emotionally speaking, it really gets a lot from both Josh and Tag (the hurt Natalie causes the latter is made a big point, which I liked). Tag is a decent human being, btw, the biggest deviation from the usual tropes that the film allows itself.

Natalie (Nina Dobrev) and Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) out caroling-

But Natalie is the character we are supposed to go along with, and the film is a little weird about her. She makes some really shitty decisions (starting with just getting on a plane to surprise somebody she has never met before. On Christmas), but they never seem to gain any weight. Or rather, she never really gets any substance. And there is one scene where she has an allergic reaction and her entire face swells up, just when she tries to impress Tag for the first time. It’s a mix of lookism and ableism and fatmisia, and the horrified reactions and her mortification are played for laughs. The film would have definitely been better without that part.

In the end, the film goes where we all knew it would end up, although I will admit I was surprised that they flat-out stole a bit from another film. I mean, it’s obviously an hommage, but it feels weird that these characters don’t really get their own big moment. Be that as it may, it’s a watchable film, but not a future Christmas favorite.

Tag (Darren Barnett) and Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) standing in Josh's family shop.

Summarizing: Okay.

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