Nina Dobrev (right) and Jimmy O. Yang star in Love Hard.
Remember that one Christmas movie where a woman who is down on her luck (yet is still fiercely independent) falls for a guy who lives in a town that is so small that everyone knows each other’s names? Too vague? You know the one… she has a sassy best friend, the guy has a sassy grandma, and a lie or two causes holiday shenanigans until everything goes sideways and feelings get hurt but not too badly because everyone learns to be better people by the end and our two leads kiss and everything is merry and bright? Oh wait, I am describing every Christmas rom-com ever written. This includes Netflix’s new holly-decked Love Hard, a film that does very little to distinguish itself from the competition; although it does indeed offer a few genuine laughs on the way to its predictable ending.
If you feel like I spoiled the ending for you just now, then you’ve probably never seen a movie before. Although the set up to Love Hard (a portmanteau of Love Actually and Die Hard, although I think I would have gone with Die Actually, myself) sounds vaguely interesting– the guy the woman falls in love with was actually catfishing her, which she finds out the hard way when she shows up in his small town to surprise him for Christmas. But it still hits all of the holiday rom-com tropes with a feverish gusto in its attempts to reconcile the slightly problematic premise (I don’t think it’s a super great idea to convey the message that if you lie on a dating profile you might still end up with the girl) with the expected happy ending. Remember the sassy, high strung yet likeable boss that I mentioned in the first paragraph? Yeah, I didn’t mention him, but I bet you knew he was in here. Other than the two leads themselves, every character in this movie gives the impression that they just jumped out of a cartoon, and all of them (including the leads) are just as two-dimensional as well.
The thing is, I did indeed chuckle a few times while watching Love Hard, and even found it pretty charming. The jokes land admirably when the script isn’t dragging out well-discussed topics and treating them like they are original witty observations (we know, movie, the lyrics to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are problematic and the idea of Santa can be kind of creepy), which is a credit to the cast and writers. Love Hard may have all of the touchstones of an assembly line made Hallmark Christmas movie, but it touches on them much more competently than it has any right to. The end result? I didn’t want to turn off my TV and throw myself into a furnace, which is more than I can say for most Christmas movies.
So maybe I’m being a bit hard on Love Hard. In today’s volatile world, maybe a little predictability with a few laughs sprinkled in is just what the doctor ordered.
Love Hard is now available on Netflix.