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‘Love Hard’ Review: Seeking Connection, Not Perfection | tnewst.com Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘Love Hard’ Review: Seeking Connection, Not Perfection

“Love Hard,” directed by Hernán Jiménez, centers on Natalie (Nina Dobrev), a Los Angeles journalist who chronicles her unlucky dating encounters for a digital publication. When she matches with her dream guy on the East Coast, Tag (Darren Barnet), she decides on a whim to surprise him for the holidays.

Things take a turn when Natalie discovers she’s been catfished by Josh (Jimmy O. Yang), Tag’s childhood friend. To make it up to her, Josh offers to help set her up with Tag.

The film, streaming on Netflix, explores the pitfalls of online dating and how focusing on physical appearance can backfire. It’s a message reinforced throughout the movie, including with a derisive comment describing “Love Actually” as “a movie about people falling in love based on how they look.”

Josh, the catfisher, is a refreshing romantic comedy protagonist. He’s a Chinese American candle-maker living in his family’s basement whose passions and traumas viewers get to know throughout the film. Yang delivers some funny one-liners, such as when he quips that, in some cultures, “height and facial symmetry are repulsive.” And Josh’s competitive dynamic with his brother gives viewers a reason to root for him.

But Dobrev’s character is underdeveloped. We learn that she has an unhealthy attachment to perfection and is stuck in a narrative reinforced by her day job. It is Josh that propels her story forward, and she ends up serving as a prop for his becoming. In presenting a female character who is attractive, but bereft of substance, the movie subverts its own premise.

It brings to mind the observation by bell hooks, in her seminal book “All About Love,” that while women are often the practitioners of love, men get to theorize about it. This idea is reinforced by an interaction between Natalie and her boss. When she asks to take a break from writing about disaster dates and asks instead to write her New York love story, he responds, “You’ve got to leave the serious stuff to real journalists, like Steve.”

Love Hard
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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