By Olivia Aloi
Netflix’s Christmas romantic comedy “Love Hard” was released on Nov. 5, adding to the streaming platform’s list of new releases for the holiday season.
At the beginning of the film, we meet Los Angeles journalist Natalie Bauer, played by “Vampire Diaries” star Nina Dobrev, who is struggling to find her soulmate in a sea of questionably eligible bachelors of the digital world.
Natalie uses her poor luck in love as inspiration for her column “Always a Bridesmaid,” in which she details her terrible dating experiences. Though her stories gain traction by both readers and her unlikable editor Lee (Matty Finochio) who relishes in her failures, Natalie finally reaches her quota of rejection.
Aware her Los Angeles prospects are sorely lacking, at her best friend Kerry’s suggestion, Natalie embarks on a nationwide search for love through the cheesily-named dating app Flirt Alert. She mutually swipes right on Josh Lin, an outdoorsy, adventurous and handsome 30-year-old who, to Natalie’s dismay, lives across the country in Lake Placid, N.Y.
They form an instant connection, and Josh’s text expressing his wish for Natalie to be with him for Christmas sends Natalie into an overconfident tailspin when she impulsively decides to fly to Lake Placid. She sees it as not only a perfect opportunity to find love, but a chance to write a new story for Lee that will finally have the happy ending she has longed for.
However, when Natalie arrives at Josh’s door, she quickly finds that his appearance doesn’t match up with his profile. In other words, she’s been ‘catfished.’
Despite Natalie feeling justifiably betrayed and embarrassed, Josh requests that she stay and pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays, eager to appease his family and fill a void of self-confidence—and Natalie agrees. In return, Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) promises to introduce her to Tag (Daren Barnett), the fake ‘Josh’ from the dating profile, who happens to be his childhood friend.
While the movie remains lighthearted throughout, Natalie’s character is sometimes hard to believe. Immediately settling into life with Josh, bonding with his grandmother and singing Christmas carols, is unrealistic when looked at in the context of Natalie’s personality. She is self-respecting, yet her actions tell an entirely different story that can be construed as frustrating by the viewer.
Instead of going home and getting ready to write about her newest dating disaster, Natalie chooses to deceive Tag, lying about her interests to grow closer to him. On her adventures with Tag, Natalie uncharacteristically goes bobsledding, a nod to the 1980 Winter Olympics hosted in Lake Placid. The thing is, her plan works, though only to an extent, and Tag falls for her.
Soon after, Natalie’s scheme with Josh comes to a head at a massive town gathering, and both of their plans are ruined. The glaringly obvious irony is that Natalie becomes a ‘catfish’ herself, and must pay the price for going against her own beliefs.
Though the events of the movie take a dramatic turn for the worse, avid rom-com watchers know all about predictability, and “Love Hard” is no exception to granting the fairytale ending. Nevertheless, watching the rushed, frequently cringe worthy journey through Natalie’s pursuit of love feels like expectantly running down the stairs on Christmas morning, only to find a lump of coal in your stocking.
Poster from IMDb