The Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev's Love Hard review - a schlocky un-funny, un-romantic movie

·4-min read
Photo credit: Bettina Strauss - Netflix
Photo credit: Bettina Strauss - Netflix

We have left Halloween behind for the heady heights of Christmas, and Netflix has begun its wintery slate with Love Hard. The film stars Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev and Silicon Valley's Jimmy O Yang as lovebirds. Sort of. Not really.

The premise isn't entirely unrelateable, though it comes with a hefty dose of Sex and the City knock-off vibes and a slick sheen of motion smoothing that makes it mildly nauseating to watch. We start the film with Dobrev's Natalie, a Carrie Bradshaw-esque relationship blogger who writes about the trials and tribulations of online dating in Los Angeles.

Her friend encourages her to widen her search area to the whole of the country in order to find a man and soon she does: Josh (Yang) lives in upstate New York and the two of them hit it off, so when he says that he wishes she was there for Christmas, Natalie boards a plane to Lake Placid, NY.

Photo credit: Bettina Strauss - Netflix
Photo credit: Bettina Strauss - Netflix

Of course, when she arrives she discovers that Josh looks nothing like his photos (which are of his frenemy Tag, played by Darren Barnet) and that she has been catfished. What unfolds is a predictable story of finding one's true self and love.

Without giving it away, the story takes exactly the turns you expect: from predictable bad dates to accidental romantic moments and of course the important Christmas miracle of self-acceptance. What Love Hard wants to do is make a comment on how dating apps have made us shallow and how in order to find love we have to know ourselves first, but the way it says it is full of hamfisted attempts at being "woke" (and failing) and fundamental misunderstandings of the anxieties of dating when less than model good-looking.

The best one-liners all take place in the first five minutes, and all belong to the inevitable fat friend (Heather McMahan), who, to her credit, is actually self-aware, in a happy relationship and exceptionally funny despite the fat phobia that permeates the film. A movie about her 'importing her boyfriend from Ohio' would have been far more fun to watch than this schlock.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

As the real Josh, Yang tries to impart a sort of earnest, millennial pathos — a condemnation of toxic masculinity while still cognizant enough to know that the game is rigged against him, someone who doesn't fit into that mould. But the world around him isn't either cruel enough nor is it fantastical enough for us to believe that Josh is really trapped.

Another huge issue the film never makes peace with is how absolutely bizarre it is to use a picture of your former friend as yourself for your dating profile. Catfishing is one thing, but that kind of intimate identity theft is skin-crawlingly creepy. Tag is made into such a punchline that we can't even stop to feel sorry that he was used by Josh to get matches on a dating app.

The fact that despite having nothing in common, Natalie still wants to date Tag instead is the biggest red flag in a person you can imagine. She flat out turns down Josh despite the fact that they clearly have more chemistry, more in common, and don't hold totally opposing world views!

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

There is always a certain amount of disbelief that has to be suspended for a rom-com in which two very obviously well-suited people struggle to get it together, but Love Hard pushes it off the edge.

As for the 'com' element in the rom-com bundle, the humour meant to suffuse the film with fizz as the two main characters struggle to keep their secrets and lies straight isn't even funny. Instead, it's a cheap facsimile of entertainment and despite, perhaps, her best efforts Dobrev doesn't seem able to approach any of it with any earnestness (a fault in part of the clumsy dialogue) and Yang tries to imbue his lines with actual humour but is hamstrung by, well, the writing.

Without anything substantive to hang your hats on, Love Hard is a hollow and failed attempt at both romance and comedy. The resulting feeling is... absolutely nothing but the immense desire to switch over to anything else.

Love Hard is now out on Netflix.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting