With dazzling lead performances from Jimmy O. Yang and Nina Dobrev, Love Hard will surely be a Christmas romantic comedy worth revisiting every year.
Halloween has barely disappeared from the rear-view mirror and the Christmas movies are quickly gaining momentum. Love Hard has the great honor of being one of the first to hit Netflix this year and usher in a slew of Christmas magic to the streaming service, and what a fantastic start. With dazzling lead performances from Jimmy O. Yang and Nina Dobrev, Love Hard will surely be a Christmas romantic comedy worth revisiting every year.
The story is a modern take on Cyrano de Bergerac, but with some tweaks. Natalie (Dobrev) is a romantic disaster columnist who has been documenting her perilous journey through online dating. One day, she notices a handsome man’s profile and quickly becomes enthralled with him. Feeling like he is her other half, Natalie boards a plane from California to a small town in New York to surprise him. Thinking she will be meeting Josh from the app, played by the age-appropriate Darren Barnet, she is surprised with real-life Josh (played by Yang). In good ole’ romcom fashion, Natalie considers the lie much greater than her connection with Josh. She then promptly sets out to get to know fake Josh( whose real name is Tag), who she knows nothing about. Real Josh, who is now too afraid to come clean to his family, decides to help Natalie woo Tag.
What unfolds is nearly two hours of romantic comedy shenanigans wrapped up in sweet and clever writing that are simultaneously cringe-worthy (because of the situations Natalie gets herself into) and cheerful (there is a happy ending). Love Hard is sweet and clever, but feels like one too many movies rolled into one, even with the typical trappings of the romcom genre. Bits and pieces are knowing nods to other classics, while others are just unfortunate coincidences considering the proliferation of Christmas romantic comedies. However, there is a reason why people come back to this genre time and time again — predictability is comforting. But Love Hard does something that many fail to do, which is having fun with predictability and being entertaining overall.
Dobrev is a very capable actress, so playing the heroine in a romantic comedy seems to have been a breeze. Her character in Love Hard is misguided and requires a rude awakening, and as she bumbles through a series of unfortunate mistakes on the road to love, she gathers clarity and comes out better on the other side. Dobrev’s natural onscreen charm saves Natalie from being entirely unlikeable, but it is in the scenes where Natalie is making all the wrong choices that Dobrev shines. She doesn’t hold back on showing Natalie’s foolish side as well as her sincere side as she undergoes this journey. Natalie is very relatable, but easily unlikeable, and Dobrev carefully moves through the film without ever losing faith that Natalie will come to the right conclusion at the end. Not many actresses can pull that off.
While Dobrev is delightful in Love Hard, the film really does belong to Yang, who is quickly becoming a household name. The star in the making is thoroughly entertaining, charming, sweet, and very funny as he plays Josh, one-half of the accidental Cyrano de Bergerac situation. In every way possible, Yang is the perfect romantic comedy leading man. From his sincere efforts to woo Natalie to his humorous quips to his quiet sad moments, Yang effortlessly runs through every facet of his character. It easily makes him the best thing in an already pleasant movie. Even in a moment where Josh has his big speech about how catfishing is bad, it’s done with sincerity that skips past cringe and aims straight to the heart.
And there must be a small shoutout to Yang’s Crazy Rich Asians co-star Harry Shum Jr., who comes in hot, utilizing his Glee training to the fullest. He is a perfect foil to Yang’s quiet and demure Josh, which highlights Yang’s gifts and adds to the film’s comedic side. Love Hard could have easily fallen under the pressure of all its references and incidental comparisons to great romantic comedies. However, it turns out to be a very pleasant experience that stands on its own. The ensemble is refreshing and lively, and the film’s message is simple and easy to digest. Just be yourself. With dazzling leads and a fun ensemble, Love Hard hits the mark.
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Love Hard is streaming on Netflix as of November 5, 2021. It is 105 minutes and not rated.
- Love Hard (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
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