Love Hard (2021) reviewed

For this week’s post, my first choice was reviewing season three of You. However, being a recent release, there wasn’t much material. I also thought of reviewing Knives Out (2020) which was both a critical and audience darling. Although the screenplay was quite ingenious and original, Daniel Craig’s Southern accent was off-putting. Considering Mr Bond had a pivotal role in the movie, the errant intonation was hard to ignore. This leaves us with Love Hard, which represents Netflix’s top pick at the moment. Critics have been lukewarm over the production, but audiences have raved about it. Jimmy O. Yang, a very capable thespian, headlines the movie, alongside Nina Dobrev. An unconventional love story set during the Yuletide season, Love Hard is a timely treat.

‘Going the distance’

The film begins with Natalie, an LA writer who chronicles her hopeless love life. Her boss has fired her at least six times but her heartbreak stories continue to captivate readers. She is a veteran of dating sites and apps. While flicking through potential matches, she pauses at this macho, sporty Asian-American guy. The more she learns about the hombre, the more intrigued she becomes. She yearns to hear his voice. When she does, this only whets her appetite. They bond despite the long-distance relationship. Natalie learns that Josh is invested. She convinces her boss that she’ll travel 3,000 miles to meet the dude. This would be the perfect story.  

Not a cakewalk

Upon arriving on the east coast, she realises that things are not as rosy as she’d imagine. For starters, she came in a dress while it was snowing in town. After a luggage debacle, she realises that the Uber driver is the same apathetic dickhead manning the airport counter. When she initiates Plan B, the self-same berk is apparently the Lyft driver. Upon emerging to Josh’s house, she realises that she’s been catfished. The tall, suave Eurasian dude is apparently a shorter, bespectacled Asian nerd. She meets his family, including his dad and stepmom. However, she tells Josh that she needs to leave as a result of his deceit. Josh reasons that his family will be devastated if she does so. She must pretend to be his girl until Christmas. In return, he’ll introduce her to Tag, her real target.

Tag

Early on, it’s obvious that she has nothing in common with the latter. We learn (as does the town) that she has a kiwi allergy. Josh coaches her prior to her conversations with Tag. She pretends to read this book to impress him, even though she hates it. She learns that Tag is into rock climbing, something she isn’t fond of. She manages to put aside her vertigo purely through Josh’s help. She goes bobsledding with Tag, though she is hardly the adventurous type. Finally, she eats roast meat during their night out – compromising her own vegetarian beliefs. Obviously, she is attracted to Tag only on the surface level; their personalities, interests, and lifestyles are mismatched. 

Meet the fam

She sleeps in Josh’s bed and the latter is relegated to the floor. Josh’s family welcomes her with open arms and treats her like she’s blood. The arrival of Owen, Josh’s older brother, steals the couple’s thunder. Natalie sees that Owen loves the attention and throws his weight around Josh. Indeed, he appears with his cute wife and has trouble believing that his brother can get a boo. During this charade, Natalie keeps procrastinating and gets into a few arguments with her boss. They sang before the oldies when Owen announces that his better half is preggers. Not to be outdone, Josh goes on bended knee and asks Natalie for her hand in marriage. The sudden turn of events gobsmacked Natalie, but she eventually relents and says ‘yes’. 

From there, the narrative descends into a disaster movie. Natalie has to contend with Josh, his family, Tag, and her boss while keeping the charade in play. She must come clean given that her hosts were nothing but upstanding and kind. In the process, she could crush a whole family. While it’s hard for Natalie, the same applies to Josh. Not only will he lose the former but he will also disappoint everyone else. He has feared that his father will not understand it if he admits that he never wanted to work in the family business. Making candles was more than a hobby for him. To his surprise, his dad urges him to fight for his passion. The movie has shades of Love, Actually, which happens to be Josh’s fave Yuletide picture. 

Deeper lessons

While Love Hard is Christmas-perfect, there are deeper lessons apart from depicting the standard rom-com. The first is being truthful. Sometimes telling a tall tale is easy, essentially passing off as someone you’re not. Like Josh, we want the limelight and the girl next door. We desire to be the coolest sibling, surfer, or critter on earth. We become impostors when being ourself is the best policy. Later, Josh will realise the value of honesty on social media. Natalie complimented him: he has great eyes and a winning smile. He took note of her advice and did a makeover.

Secondly, the change among the characters was palpable. This was especially true of Natalie, who transformed from being entitled to owning up to her mistakes. In adjusting to Tag, she revealed how she can put her whims to the side and change for someone else. Josh’s own metamorphosis has been outlined above. Thirdly, the film has a happy ending. Time for some Christmas cheer. I’ve seen a sample of Jimmy O. Yang’s previous work. He does not have the biggest roles but, despite the limited exposure, he shines through. This was Exhibit A of his acting flair. I’ve also sighted Nina Dobrev on TV before. Together, they make a cute match. I also chuckled at Natalie’s favourite Christmas movie: Die Hard. Did you get the pun?

Rating: 4.4/5

From Love Actually (2003)
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