Love Hard review

Like most Christmas rom coms, Love Hard can only be but so unpredictable. That’s the challenge of any rom com, but especially for Christmas theme ones. Viewers go in with an idea of how it’s going to wrap up within the first 10 minutes and the only expectation is a pleasant journey to the happy ending sealed with a kiss before the final credits.

And on that front Love Hard delivers a pleasant heaping of feel goods that goes down as easy as big mug of hot chocolate or apple cider.

Natalie (Nina Dobrev, The Final Girls) has found her writing niche at a social media website. She details all of her disastrous dating exploits as she navigates a dating site. Her boss, Lee (Matty Finochio), isn’t interested in her other pitches so Natalie keeps swiping for a love connection while professionally praised for her lackluster love connections.

love hard review -nina dobrev as natalie

This doesn’t seem like a very long-term stable career if/when Natalie ever meets a stable good dude. When she starts chatting with Josh, it’s looking like Natalie might have actually found a genuine connection. Their biggest disagreement is arguing if Love, Actually or Die Hard is the best Christmas movie, hence the title.

On a lark, Natalie decides to surprise Josh for Christmas only to be shocked to find Josh (Jimmy O. Yang, Crazy Rich Asians) doesn’t look anything like his profile.

love hard review -josh and natalie

Embarrassed and desperate not to disappoint his parents (James Saito and Rebecca Staab), Josh convinces Natalie to play along like she’s his girlfriend through Christmas.

Things get even more interesting when Natalie discovers the body stand-in Josh used is actually his old childhood friend, Tag (Darren Barnet, Agents of SHIELD). Natalie agrees to Josh’s plan provided he helps her actually hooks her up with Tag.

love hard review - barb, owen and chelsea putting up the tree

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Turns out Natalie isn’t Tag’s usual kind of girl so she starts getting ‘flexible’ with her interests in order to be more appealing to him.

Screenwriters Daniel Mackey and Rebecca Ewing thankfully don’t hammer the irony of Natalie essentially catfishing Tag after being upset Josh did the same thing to her.

love hard review - lin family christmas carols

Natalie starts to get conflicted when she gets to know Josh further and see why he feels so inadequate. Especially when his spotlight stealing brother, Owen (Harry Shum Jr., All My Life), and wife, Chelsea (Mikaela Hoover, Guardians of the Galaxy) arrive. And Josh really is sweet with his family, including his doting grandmother June (Althea Kaye).

You know exactly how this is going to play out, but it still works. Director Hernan Jimenez only throws in one really wild comedy movie scenario. Instead of relying on one wacky unrealistic scenario after another, Jimenez just lets the story unfold without the need to needlessly make it too over the top.

That restraint is a main reason why the film is so enjoyable. It never goes off the rails of ridiculousness just because it’s a rom com.

love hard review - chelsea, barb and lee

Dobrev has solid chemistry with both Yang and Barnet, which is vital for this role as Natalie needs to be increasingly torn between her norm and her heart’s desire.

It’s refreshing to see another Christmas movie with two Asian male love interests.

love hard review - tag and josh

That still feels like a rarity, but there’s at least an effort being made to add some diversity to the romantic pairings. And Love Hard is a far better Christmas movie than Last Christmas.

love hard review -jimmy o yang and nina dobrev

Don’t look for Love Hard to dramatically reinvent the Christmas rom com. It dutifully plays out the genre’s checklist, but does it with some unexpected laughs and charm that it makes for a winning start to the 2021 Christmas movie season.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: Netflix

Check out Love Actually and Die Hard on Amazon.

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