“Love Hard” (2021): Die Actually (Review)

· Films & Video Games

★★½

Love Hard is an enjoyable, sweet, uplifting Christmas picture stemming from a silly premise and full of needless references to silly cultural questions outside it.  It’s awful… yet I’m embarrassed to admit that I liked it.

I don’t like reviewing movies like this.  Not because I hate watching them, but rather because both romance and comedy are too subjective for someone like me to attempt to explain it.  It’s like explaining a joke or giving an empirical rationale for why you love someone.  I proposed to a girl earlier this year, and I still have trouble with the latter.  Christmas is also a challenge to write about because it’s so personal for so many people, and I only celebrate it as an American.

She’s a professional dating columnist whose career requires her to stay single and miserable so she can keep writing about all of her disastrous dates.  When a colleague convinces her to expand her search beyond the interior of Los Angeles, she matches with a guy on the other side of the country.  She falls for him so hard that she decides to fly to Lake Placid, NY to surprise him for Christmas.  Turns out that the man she fell for is not the handsome half-Asian outdoor life liver but an entirely Asian nerdy basement dweller who catfished her.  Except, Mr. Half-Asian Outdoor Life Liver actually lives in Lake Placid, so our home girl, despite knowing nothing about him other than how he looks, wants to take a shot at him.  The nerd, knowing the guy well, offers to help set her up with him provided she fakes being his girlfriend during the week leading up to Christmas.  You probably know exactly how the rest of this story is going to end from here on out if you have seen literally any other movie.

Aside from the surprisingly stellar soundtrack, what impressed me with this film was how hard it commits to certain moments that have no business working as well as they do.  Things that are supposed to raise the stakes or change the story don’t actually do that.  There’s a B story in the film where Mr. Nerd keeps getting upstaged by his older brother, and the conflict escalates so much in one scene that he ends up proposing to our main character.  Then the movie forgets about that entirely and the older brother becomes benevolent and protective.  And even after everything blows up and then gets pieced back together, what’s supposed to be a happy ending is undercut by the fact that neither main characters apologized or even tried to make things right with catfished Outdoor Life Liver.  Like, the movie actually does a good job making him a clear victim of the scheme, and goes out of its way to paint him as a decent guy even if he’s not the one.  But it lets it hang like a mistletoe for the main characters.  These things bring the film down along with the stupidity of the premise itself.  But when it’s just killing time, the meat of it actually ends up being pretty moving.

Love Hard is called that because her favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, which he doubts is one, and his favorite Christmas movie is Love Actually, which she hates.  She also hates “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for mindless reasons (though the movie actually addresses this oddly well), Henry David Thoreau, and generally being outside.  These are basically the only things I actually know about her, which is ironic since the movie preaches honesty with the sincerity of a reformed embezzler, yet never gives her much beyond the superficial.  There’s even a missed rhetorical opportunity at the end of the film, and the only reason I care is because I was still into it.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that despite how much it fumbles as a complete story, it’s a delightful enough little film that I found myself enjoying it even when I wasn’t supposed to.  I suppose in a way, that’s what romance is all about.

– Vivek

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