REVIEW: ‘Love Hard’ Tries A Bit Too Hard
The holiday season is officially upon us, and that means one thing: It's time to get ready for a massive influx of Netflix Christmas movies. This year's festive streaming season starts off with 'Love Hard', and here's our take on the current Netflix #1 movie.
The Dangers of Online Dating
Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev), a young LA writer, has been unlucky in love. She spends a lot of time on dating apps, trying to find the one. But all her dates always turn out disastrous. When her best friend tells her she needs to change up her settings and look for love outside of LA, she's hesitant. But then she meets Josh (Jimmy O. Yang).
He's perfect. He likes traveling, can hold a conversation, and seems to understand her. He's also very, very attractive. They're perfect for each other. Except for the fact that they've never met in person.
Things get interesting when Natalie spontaneously decides to visit Josh. It turns out he's a catfish; he has been using a picture of his childhood friend, Tag (Darren Barnet), all along. In reality, he looks nothing like him. Disappointed, Natalie is ready to leave. But then she meets the real Tag and decides to stay and give it a chance. Will he be her perfect match? Or is there more to Josh than meets the eye?
While 'Love Hard' is busy criticizing problematic aspects of other media, it seems to forget that its main storyline is hugely problematic, too. The catfish gets the girl? Really?
Calling Out Problematic Tropes
'Love Hard' is a standard rom-com. Two unlikely lovers fall for each other despite their differences. Sure, there's a lot more modern technology in this one, but other than that, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the genre.
One thing that makes 'Love Hard' stand out, though, is that it addresses some of the more problematic tropes that often feature in Christmas rom-coms and songs. The characters discuss the shallowness of everyone's favorite movie, 'Love, Actually' (everyone just falls in love based on looks). They also poke fun at the good old date-rape song, 'Baby It's Cold Outside', by singing an altered rendition all about consent. And you can't argue with the movie. It does make good points about these classics.
There's just one small problem. While 'Love Hard' is busy criticizing problematic aspects of other media, it seems to forget that its main storyline is hugely problematic, too. The catfish gets the girl? Really?
What's the Message Here?
While the movie does go into why catfishing is wrong, it doesn't go in hard enough. We're asked to consider why Josh did what he did. We're asked to forgive him because he was insecure and sad. Yes, he did lie about his identity but so did Natalie when she dates Tag. Two wrongs make a right, right? No. Wrong.
Josh seems like a nice person. So does Natalie. Maybe they are perfect for each other. But at the end of the day, giving them a happy ending makes it seem like catfishing isn't all that bad. After all, if Josh didn't lie, they would have never gotten their happily ever after.
'Love Hard' tries to show us how looks aren't the most important thing. It's who you are on the inside that matters. And while the ending does pull at your heartstrings, it isn't enough to dispute this: While 'Love Hard' is busy trying to be less shallow than other rom-coms, it creates a completely new hurdle for itself along the way.