Netflix’s “Love Hard” can be hard to watch


Photo courtesy of @netflixfilm

Nina Dobrev stars as Natalie Bauer, an unlucky with love journalist who is taken on a journey of romance and self acceptance. Released on Nov. 5 2021, “Love Hard” is a diverse watch for the holidays.

By Ela Jalil, Online Editor-in-Chief

A Netflix rom-com that includes catfishing is usually a recipe for disaster, with the 2018 original “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” acting as a defense for this manipulative behavior, and being a prime example of a main character who does not suffer the consequences of her own actions. However, with the 2021 release of “Love Hard”, Netflix emphasizes the importance of being your authentic self, to the enjoyment of viewers.  

Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) is an LA based journalist whose articles revolve around her many mishaps in love. When she matches with Josh, a handsome outdoorsman who lives across the country in New York, she gradually falls for him and makes the impulsive decision to visit him for Christmas. To her horror, she finds introverted Josh Lin (Jimmy O Yang) instead of the man of her dreams, and realizes that she has been catfished. Josh and her strike up a deal where he will help her win over the real man behind the photos, Tag (Darren Barnet), if she agrees to pretend to be in a relationship with him through the holiday season. With pressure from her boss to produce a story about this experience, Natalie struggles with prioritizing her true self or love. 

This movie attempts to be a Christmas rom-com for the modern age as it tackles the struggles of online dating and how easy it is to put up a facade. It also criticizes catfishing in real life by sending a strong message of not changing who you are to date someone. Despite these steps forward, it still fails to properly punish Josh for catfishing and instead attempts to get the viewer to sympathize with him. Netflix still has a long way to go in properly condemning this behavior and needs to realize that a timid character still has the capacity to enact great mental harm on other people. 

Unfortunately, this movie succumbs to many common Christmas movie tropes and does not execute them well. With constant references to “Die Hard” and “Love Actually” the viewer is left wondering if they would find more enjoyment watching those movies instead. Filled with cringe worthy scenes, from Josh’s Grandma’s inappropriate comments to a hard to watch bar dancing scene, it is easy to understand the 6.3 rating from IMDB. 

However, some aspects of this contemporary love story stand out including the changing of the lyrics of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” (nicknamed the “sexual assault anthem” by Natalie) from a man’s insistence to have his female companion to stay to one more focused on consent. This song has been the forefront of many debates following the #MeToo movement, and it was refreshing to see Netflix take a step forward to changing the harmful meaning of everyday classics. 

Netflix also took a giant leap with representation, casting British Hong Kong American Yang as a male love interest. Throughout American history, Asian women have been hypersexualized while Asian men are considered more effeminate and unattractive. From Mickey Rooney’s yellow face in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to Long Duk Dong in “Sixteen Candles”, harmful portrayals of Asian men have permeated Hollywood. These notions have started to change in the modern day where Asian men have begun to take leading roles such as Henry Golding, Simu Lu and Steven Yeun. Yang differs from these more conventionally attractive men, and shows that Asian men don’t have to conform to traditional beauty standards and be above average looking to be given space on screen. 

This movie was filled with many familiar faces from Glee star Harry Shum Jr. to Netflix favorite Darren Barnett. It was refreshing to see Barnett play someone his own age, instead of a teenager on the popular show “Never Have I Ever”, and it is expected to see him in many more rom-coms in the future. 

Overall, “Love Hard” follows through with their goal of getting viewers into the Christmas spirit and promises many endearing moments. Despite its failings, Netflix is moving in the right direction of diversifying its content and foreshadows a more inclusive movie screen.