Maddi’s review published on Letterboxd:
You’re not just fooling yourself. There’s someone else on the other side of that lie, falling in love with a version of you that doesn’t exist.
Love Hard, a title created by combining Christmas films Love Actually and Die Hard, is chaotic, corny, and cringe-worthy — but also charming and cute enough to carry the controversial morals and questionable characters of this Christmas-time romcom.
The plot follows Natalie, who meets Josh (or who she thinks is Josh), on an online dating site. After chatting for three weeks, she decides it’s a good idea to travel across the country to surprise him for Christmas… before realising she’s been catfished.
For me, I’m always uncertain going into romance stories that involve catfishing, as I’m never really sure it’s a redeemable action. It’s difficult to take something like that and make it romantic; Love Hard barely gets away with it. Josh is crafted to be a character to sympathise with — he’s awkward and nerdy, which is his excuse for catfishing Natalie in the first place, and he ultimately changes his ways as he learns to love himself and his flaws. It’s predictable, and I still question his moral integrity.
Natalie is no better; she leads on and uses the naïve Tag, who should’ve gotten an apology at least. Whilst her anger is understandable, she’s just as bad as Josh through her compulsive lying to seem desirable and commitment to two different men. Tag deserved a lot better than what he got.
However, the rest of the characters are pretty fantastic. The Lin family are a highlight, especially Grandma June and Bob. Both definitely redeem the immorality of other characters. Even Owen, who originally appears selfish and pretentious, shows his true colours as a loyal, protective big brother. Although, this family’s niceness doesn’t justify the incredibly awkward carolling scene — whether it was Harry Shum Jr revisiting his Glee days, or just a fun inclusion, it caused for cringe, though the edited rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was neat.
The final act is incredibly messy and rushed, with no real character development other than a classic ‘lightbulb’ moment. It’s saved by the Love Actually reference — it was a sweet touch to what’s otherwise an unromantic movie.
Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O.Yang are individually good, but have little chemistry. Their dynamic is entertaining to see, but the spark just isn’t there. Darren Barnet gets the opportunity to play a character above the age of nineteen, which is fun, despite the fact his character is wasted.
Love Hard is a fun watch. Despite my many complaints, it did manage to make me smile and it’s Christmas setting is full of festive spirit; it would just be cuter without the catfishing, lying and blame.