A typical Christmas chick flick, very predictable and stereotypical — that’s what my first impression of “Love Hard” was. But to me, that doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing; I’m definitely part of the target audience for those kinds of movies. Give me some romance, some drama, some kitsch and I’m all in.
At first glance, “Love Hard” does exactly that: The romantic comedy film directed by Hernán Jiménez revolves around Natalie Bauer, played by Nina Dobrev, a dating column writer from Los Angeles who has one disastrous online date after the other. That is until she matches with Josh Lin, played by Jimmy O. Yang. She falls so head over heels with him that she decides to surprise him for Christmas — only to be surprised in the worst way possible: Natalie’s been catfished. Josh is not the guy she thought he was and the pictures he sent her were not of him but of his friend Tag Abbott, played by Darren Barnet. Josh is a regular Asian guy, a little shorter than her — and nothing like his handsome tall friend Tag. Nevertheless, Natalie and Josh start to fake-date for the sake of his family and Josh promises to help her get together with Tag in return.
So, here’s what I thought was going to happen: At the very beginning of the movie, it was clear to me that Josh would not turn out the way he seemed to be online. I was correct. However, I was also convinced that Natalie and Josh would still end up with each other — I will not say if I was correct with this one, but throughout the movie, my conviction in this prediction definitely faltered. Which is good because the very predictable movie at times wasn’t so predictable anymore. In some scenes, it seemed as if Josh not only faked his appearance but his personality and the way he cared for Natalie when they were still only talking on the phone, as well. At the same time, Natalie really seemed to get along with Tag — and let’s be honest, in most chick flicks, it’s the hot guy that gets the girl.
This little twist in predictability wasn’t the only thing I enjoyed in “Love Hard.” The way the movie dealt with catfishing portrayed our modern-day insecurities very well. Especially on social media, everything and everyone always have to look good, sound good, be good — even more, be perfect. It’s the little lies that start turning into bigger lies and the movie directly addresses this problem in one particular scene. It’s when Natalie and Josh are asked to help some residents of a retirement home set up online profiles on a dating site that the residents start twisting the truth about their ages and physical abilities. Even though Josh calls them out, they still continue to do so. And there’s another twist: Natalie, who knows what it feels like to be catfished, starts being the catfisher herself.
To put it in other words: “Love Hard” encourages its viewers to stay true to themselves because if you don’t, you’ll end up at your fake-engagement party with a fake fiancé — who knows he’s fake — and a fake boyfriend — who doesn’t know he’s fake. Yes, that’s how the whole catfishing lie is going to blow up. Curious? Then better watch “Love Hard” to kick off the Christmas season. I’d give it a solid 3.5 crabs — just because I’m being considerate of those who might still think the movie is very predictable. But for me, as a wholehearted chick-flick-fan, I’d give it a 4. The only reason I’m not giving it a 5 is its — in my opinion — a little awkward kiss scene at the end — but you’ll have to see and decide for yourself!