08th Nov2021

‘Love Hard’ Review (Netflix)

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, James Saito, Harry Shum Jr., Matty Finochio, Darren Barnet, Rebecca Staab, Heather McMahan, Mikaela Hoover | Written by Daniel Mackey, Rebecca Ewing | Directed by Hernan Jimenez

It’s that time of year where I start watching every Christmas movie possible. Not so long ago I started on December 1st but I soon realised that even at two a day I was missing out on some great movies, so now as soon as Halloween is over I get started. Netflix seem to have the same idea because their first festive offering of 2021 started streaming on the 5th November.

If this was a straight to DVD-style release it would probably be called A Catfish For Christmas, which is only slightly worse than the title they opted for. In Love Hard, Natalie (Nina Dobrev) is a writer who is struggling to find love through her dating apps. That all changes though when she falls in love and decides to fly to Lake Placid to surprise her new boyfriend who she has yet to actually meet. She soon discovers she’s been catfished but that’s not going to stop her search for love.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve seen it all before. And even for someone like myself who only watches romantic comedies at Christmas, I knew where this one was heading. You’ll know every step along the way too. I even thought at one point that perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite so obvious, it was just a bit too obvious wasn’t it? But no, it’s exactly what you expect. This isn’t really a bad thing though, it doesn’t take away any enjoyment you would get from it.

It is a very Christmassy movie. Set during the Christmas period, there’s the music, the lights, the decorations, the trees, the parties and some very healthy discussion on Christmas movies – well Die Hard and Love Actually to be exact. Those two movies feature surprisingly heavily but both in entertaining ways.

Nina Dobrev will be best known to The Vampire Diaries fans and she’s really enjoyable in the lead role. She could easily be annoying, the character screams for it but her performance seems influenced by Courtney Cox (as Monica in Friends), the accent, the mannerisms and even the delivering of the lines and she remains likeable throughout. Other performance highlights include Jimmy O. Yang as Josh who once again brings that likeableness (is that a word?!) to the role and you’ll want to see a happy ending for him. James Saito as Josh’s dad, Bob brings a charisma to a quiet but enjoyable character. Basically the whole cast are very wholesome and like the best romantic comedies, are there to put a smile on your face. Even the ‘villains’ aren’t really that at all – Josh’s older smug brother, played by Harry Shum Jr. and Natalie’s boss Lee, played by Matty Finochio – are shown to be nice people who are occasionally a pain in the ass.

Love Hard is almost a bit too cheesy for its own good at times but it manages to remain charming and full of festive cheer. Almost all the laughs are actually funny with some really great scenes – the ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside sing-along’ is great, as is the rock-climbing scene, with even the worst jokes (the allergic reaction scene) still very watchable.

So if you’re looking for a new heart-warming and funny Christmas movie to watch this year, Netflix has already delivered the goods with Hernan Jimenez’s Love Hard which manages to tick pretty much all those festive boxes.

*** 3/5

Love Hard is available on Netflix now.

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