In search of a connection

In search of a connection

When an unlucky-in-love journalist gets catfished, she realises looks are not everything in relationships

In search of a connection
Darren Barnet and Jimmy O. Yang in Love Hard.

Besides social media and smartphones, dating apps have also become part of modern life. The trend of swiping left or right has made it easy to meet people from diverse social backgrounds. However, just like in real life, where good-looking people are most likely to benefit from the technology, it also has the potential to damage users' self-esteem if they cannot handle rejection. So, people tweak their profiles to draw more attention to themselves. Director Hernan Jimenez took this idea and mixed it with the message of being true to yourself and finding your worth as the plot of his new romantic comedy Love Hard.

The movie is about Natalie (Nina Dobrev), an unlucky-in-love journalist from LA who thinks things are beginning to look up when she falls for an East Coast guy named Tag (Darren Barnet) on a dating app. She takes a leap of faith and jumps on a flight to New York in order to surprise her crush, only to discover she's been catfished by Tag's childhood friend Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) who is equally unlucky in love. And so the movie kicks off as it follows Natalie attempting to start a romance with Tag with the help of Josh in exchange for pretending to be Josh's girlfriend for a Christmas celebration.

Love Hard is a romantic comedy with a plot about faking a relationship and matching your friend with your best friend. It's a formula that's been done countless times before. The story and progression are very generic and predictable. Within 10 minutes of the opening, you could tell who would end up with Natalie. However, the fun part of this movie is how you root for the protagonists along the way and they eventually end up falling for one another. There are a ton of ideas that feel borrowed or even outright stolen from classic rom-coms, but Love Hard still manages to feel fresh. Plus, it's refreshing to see this film have a nerdy Asian man romantically involved with a white woman, which is quite rare in Hollywood movies.

Nina Dobrev as Natalie Bauer and Darren Barnet as Tag in Love Hard. (Photos: Bettina Strauss/Netflix)

Dobrev and O. Yang have good chemistry together on screen. They both deliver and execute banter remarkably well. Their characters bounce between awkward situations, engaging in funny and cringy moments throughout the film. O. Yang is a professional stand-up comedian in real life, so the humour comes naturally to him, but he also manages to effortlessly capture the empathetic moments as well. Dobrev is also not afraid to look silly in some scenes, and she's willing to go the distance for laughs. However, there isn't much chemistry when it comes to the romance that develops between Josh and Natalie as they seem to give off more of a friend vibe when hanging together despite the fact that the two are supposed to maintain their relationship facade around his family. As a result, a few moments that show the two interacting as a couple felt more awkward than charming.

Despite the high level of predictability and a plot which doesn't offer anything new, Love Hard is worth watching if you're a casual rom-com fan. There's a good message in it, like looks not being everything when it comes to compatibility in relationships. If you approach Love Hard with the intention of just relaxing and having a cheesy good time, then you might be happy with this Christmas rom-com.

  • Love Hard
  • Starring Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet
  • Directed by Hernan Jimenez
  • Now streaming on Netflix
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