by Emmarie May Bonganciso | December 11, 2021
We all know of the hopeless romantic journalist who writes about the woes of her love life from movies like “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” or “Bridget Jones’ Diary”. And at first glance, Natalie Bauer seems to be yet another remake of this trope. She is a youthful column writer in Los Angeles who documents her disastrous dates from swiping left and right in search of her perfect match. But as much as we’d hope for things to be as easy as one click, modern dating happens to be more than what meets the eye. For the modern woman, you have to be strategic and make sure you know how to play the game. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. But it can also keep a thousand secrets.
Love Hard is a romantic, comedy film about a young woman who finds her perfect match on a dating app and takes a leap of faith by visiting her online crush for Christmas, only to find out that she’s been catfished. Instead of meeting a Eurasian brunet with brown eyes and a chiseled jawline, she meets the real Josh Lin, a bright-eyed Asian American with long hair and glasses. The informal term “catfishing”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, refers to a person who pretends to be someone else on social media in order to trick or attract other people. The first impulse after finding out that you’ve been catfished is to run. And that’s exactly what Natalie had in mind before she ran into the guy with the face she had swiped right for.
In an attempt to save her failed Christmas ending, she makes a deal with Josh where he would help her win over Tag, the guy on the dating app, if she agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend until Christmas. Amidst the little, white lies, the cover-ups, and the wintery romance, it becomes increasingly apparent that Natalie’s interests and personality line up perfectly with Josh’s. But, there was one thing that was in the way: dishonesty and the call to trust.
We often don’t think we can be deserving of love. And because of this, we try to conceal as much of our insecurities as we can. It can be as simple as lying about your hobbies or as extreme as lying about your whole identity altogether. Even though Natalie was upset about Josh lying to her, she was doing the exact thing to Tag. It may not have been putting a facade online, she still wasn’t being truthful. The film reveals the many ways we can hide behind masks just to get the person we long for, but even if we succeed with fooling them, we still don’t truly end up with them because they’re only in love with an idea of you. Love is a messy business. It means facing the ugly truth alongside the sparkly moments. It’s two flawed people coming together to make a choice to take the entirety of each other and stay.
Love Hard also breaks the stereotypical molds of a romantic, comedy film by being more diverse with its characters. We’re all familiar with the standard main leads in romantic movies. They’re usually played by actors and actresses that are high up in Hollywood’s beauty standards. And yet in the story, they’re expected to pass off as the average Joe who nobody really notices or dates. What Love Hard does is that it brings you a refreshing, raw take on what love can really look like. It takes the average Asian face that is often overlooked and deemed as unattractive in movies and gives it more depth through the character, Josh Lin.
Another key feature as to why it has won the hearts of many lies in a single, meaningful scene. As the Lin family were Christmas caroling, Josh makes a bold move and volunteers Natalie and himself to sing the classic Christmas song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. It was not a favorite for Natalie as she considered it the “sexual assault theme song”, but as Natalie begins to sing her part, Josh spontaneously changes his lyrics to make it “totally consensual”. Kudos to the writers who gave this another special touch to warm the hearts of many.
The beauty of creating a movie like Love Hard is the authenticity and representation it shows. It breaks away from most of the expectations we have from a romantic comedy while also maintaining the familiarity of a warm Christmas movie. It encourages us to first believe that we can be loved. We all have the strengths to play the game. And we shouldn’t hide these away in fear of rejection, being too much or too little. With the right person, we can be enough. We can be chosen. And much like the rest of the romantic comedies out there, we’re told to keep going forward, to love hard and love truly, because that is the name of the game.