Director: Hermán Jiménez
Writers: Danny Mackey and Rebecca Ewing
Starring: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet, and Heather McMahan
Netflix’s latest offering is an early Christmas rom-com. The title, Love hard, is a mixture of the main characters favourite Christmas films, Love Actually and Die Hard. Yes, this is a film that has a running joke about whether Die Hard is a Christmas film. To put the record straight, it’s not. You would watch Die Hard in June with no questions asked, while you wouldn’t watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol then.
Natalie (Nina Dobrev) is a writer who has a popular column about her failed dates. It’s not that she’s looking for bad dates, she’s just unlucky in love. After setting her dating app to search beyond L.A. she connects with Josh (Jimmy O. Yang), who appears like the perfect guy for her. After a throwaway comment that he wishes she was with him for Christmas, Natalie flies across the country to surprise him, only to find out that the profile pictures are fake. She stays in Lake Placid, as the person who’s pictures that Josh had used also lives there, Tag (Darren Barnet) and Natalie believes she could still have a happy ending with him. Natalie and Josh make an agreement that she will pretend to be his girlfriend in front of his family for Christmas, while in return he will help her with her dream guy.
The premise behind this film is so obvious, that it probably already exists. You know the profile pictures are going to be fake, you know she’s still going to fall in love, that the truth will come out and then there will be a big romantic gesture for everything to come together. Rom-coms can be predictable and still be great, thankfully, Love Hard manages to be lovable despite relying on tropes and clichés.
Natalie and Josh and likable characters. Even though he has a fake profile picture, everything else about him seems to be genuinely nice. The reason he lied is also relatable and feels genuine. It’s his own self-insecurities that drives him to it. Natalie does the same thing to Tag, pretending to like the same interests. There is a sense in the real world that using a fake picture is worse than pretending to like something you don’t. The film does raise this question. Natalie falls in love with Josh through his texts and phone calls, and that’s his true personality. While Tag falls for Natalie based on lies and deception. We’re so used to people pretending to be someone they’re not in rom-coms, that it doesn’t seem that big of a deal compared to using a fake picture.
Josh’s family are great. They are so happy to see that he has a girlfriend, since Josh is the black sheep of the family. His dad doesn’t see eye to eye with him, his mum can’t believe Natalie is real and his grandma wants tips on how to use online dating. There’s an awkward level of cringe comedy as their lie gets bigger and bigger, with some genuine laugh out loud moments.
The biggest problem is a lot of the comedy is borrowed from elsewhere. The debate about Die Hard is all over the internet every Christmas, and at points it feels like a Twitter argument. The big romantic gesture towards the end is literally lifted from another rom-com. It’s not even changed that much. It’s still funny and sweet, but does feel kind of lazy.
You know the story going in with something like Love Hard. It’s still a good film, with great characters and moments, but this isn’t an all time classic.