The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We’ve reached that time of the year! The time when temperatures drop, holiday lights begin to twinkle, people start gravitating towards the things that make them feel warm and cozy, and of course the time when college students everywhere begin to madly cram and panic over finals. Yes, I’m sitting over here daydreaming about winter break when I should be studying myself. However, there is another marker that the happy holiday greetings are about to begin. Holiday Romance Movie Season!
I honestly love this time of the year from the cheery atmosphere, to the cold fuzzy blanket-worthy temperatures, to the songs and movies that make their debut once again onto our TV screens. Although, Netflix has started this season extra early in featuring “Love Hard”, a tale about a young plucky LA writer, who learns she is catfished after traveling across the country to surprise him for the Holidays. Featuring Nina Dobrev, who most of us know as Elena from Vampire Diaries, as Natalie Bauer and Jimmy O. Yang starring as Josh Lin, “Love Hard” is definitely giving me mixed feelings. There were such cute and relatable moments within this holiday rom-com where I can’t help but like it a smidge. However, there are some serious complaints I have with it too. So here I am, to provide an honest review of the movie “Love Hard.”
True to the “rom-com” genre, “Love Hard” is filled with a variety of cliches that had the potential to be both endearing, making us feel the warm fuzzies when the characters act them out, or aggravating, making us cringe. Personally, I enjoyed the comic relief that was created in the form of the “elaborate and climactic public declarations of love” cliche that can be found in most, if not all romantic comedies. I will not deny the comedy brought to the film was very well done, and while I wasn’t bowled over laughing, I did still find it to be a welcome reprieve from the drama that was also happening throughout the film. Speaking of this particular cliche, a specific, dare I say “sub-cliche” to this would be the “dramatic song number” that often appears within the genre also ended up making an appearance on multiple occasions. In the movie, there were at least two accounts of singing on the actors and actresses part. Between the two, I found the duet scene to be more endearing and actually appreciated this new twist on the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” rather than hating the change to the classic song. I also love how the sets were decorated mostly in these warm-toned, festive colors that paired well with the fire light and stark, cold evening skies outside windows. “Love Hard” definitely executed the small town vibes well in both setting and script.
However, despite the comedy and cute moments sprinkled here and there throughout the film, there were some serious problems with the characters and themes of “Love Hard.” One being the rationalization for catfishing with a dark story and supposedly justifiable reasoning behind it. Let’s just be clear here; catfishing is NOT okay. There is always some sort of damage. The fact that it was justified using a societal problem and common insecurity does not make this crime even a little bit okay. What it should do is cause people to wonder why catfishing is still a continued problem. Something else Netflix got wrong is who is doing the majority of catfishing. Unfortunately, according to statistics, 38% of catfishing happens through dating apps, 64% of catfishers (people who set up fake personalities/personas online to gain something from them) are women, while 36% are men, and men are 25% more likely to be catfished. Some crazy numbers, am I right? But, despite the fact that it is illegal, why do people still do this? Josh claims it is because women wouldn’t give him a chance and Natalie seems to do it because she finally wants to have a successful relationship and prove her boss wrong. The unfortunate truth is that most people still judge a book by its cover, even if they prove those preconceived perceptions wrong later on in a relationship. “Pretty-Privilege” is still a relevant problem in the U.S. People often do not have an equal opportunity to gain employment because the way they look may not fit a company brand/image or they might not be treated the same in an establishment because they are not wearing the nicest clothes as the other customers. It is still a real problem, one that limits people’s opportunities. Other reasons people catfish are to escape reality, money, to get sexually explicit photos or videos from their victims, or they just find it funny. So despite the fact that, to some people, Josh and Natalie had a good reason and Netflix was trying to address a prevalent problem, it was not well executed. However, something they did get right was the common means in which people successfully catfish. Further research shows that 69% of catfishers use names that are real, but are not their own (aka Tag for Josh) and 73% of catfishers use someone else’s photo (aka also Josh with Tag’s picture). Nine out of ten people also alter specific information about themselves such as height or weight or even personality (aka Natalie with Tag). Having looked into this further, it seems women are more likely to lie about weight and job/financial situation whilst men are more likely to lie about height and salary. Either way, both are more likely to lie about an aspect of physical appearance because in American society, there is so much pressure placed on individuals to look a certain way in order to fulfill requirements that define how feminine or masculine someone is. Similarly, because success is also directly correlated to the amount of wealth one accrues over a lifetime, with men still being considered the “breadwinners” no matter how outdated and patriarchal that system of thinking is, there is pressure laid on an individual to meet those standards of success and therefore become desirable. At least within the typical, heterosexual normative dating system that is. So even though there are reasons for catfishing, it is inexcusable and should not be rationalized just to create an interesting plot. It hurts. Don’t do it. You are attractive as you are.
Another problem I do have with this film and the “rom-com” genre in general is that there are highly specific career paths the main actresses are in that have been overly romanticized to the point of annoyance. It is maddening to almost always see the female lead as some sort of quirky, timid journalist throwing herself at the feet of her boss to get the chance to be taken seriously as a journalist. I personally wish that there was more variety in the characters’ forms of employment other than journalists, architects, or some other quirky store owner. It would be refreshing if the female lead was in a position of power, such as the head editor of a magazine or a doctor or even something that is out of the norm like a tattoo artist or better yet, a romantic comedy centered around a homosexual To mix it up and show the audience, especially the female audience, that they don’t have to be in a specific career to have a higher chance at finding love would be even more of a positive message to women and men alike. For this reason, I am glad the script writers tried to make Josh more approachable, addressing the fears that most men have when entering the female dominated industry of candle making and it was interesting to watch Josh as a character develop.
Now I am going to get off my soap-box for a minute and just say that despite these glaring problems with “Love Hard”; as far as an overall film goes, it’s not half bad. The plot flows nicely until reaching the climax at the end because everything started to feel rushed as reveal after shocking reveal was made. As I mentioned before, “Love Hard” is somewhat relatable. I also appreciated the way Nina Dobrev captured the frustrations behind writing an article, especially once writers block hits. The actors’ and actresses’ portrayal of the characters was realistic and believable, which is no surprise since everyone on the cast was a seasoned actress and actor. It shows as they seemed to have truly worked hard to embody these characters. I also appreciated the text bubbles appearing on the screen as if the audience was reading and experiencing these conversations and reveals alongside the quirky characters. The foreshadowing was one of my favorite elements of this film, although I will have to admit I had to rewatch it multiple times to catch some of that setup. I definitely felt as if I was a part of the story as an audience and the film was engaging.
All in all, “Love Hard” is a great light holiday “rom-com” to watch if you’re just chilling on a Saturday and just want to watch something cute and comfortable, then “Love Hard” wouldn’t be a bad pick. However, if you are someone who is starting to get tired of the way women are limited in their authentic representation in romantic comedies and the validation of certain unethical practices people still get away with all in the name of creating an interesting plot, then this film might not be for you.