IIt might not be until early November, but it’s already the season for Netflix to litter its hallways with branches of cheap Christmas content, the most obvious time of year for the streamer to model themselves on. the Lifetime and Hallmark channels, a strategy that is undoubtedly, somewhat depressing, paying off.
The Truly Miserable A California Christmas from last year was the streamer’s biggest movie for a week, beating the bigger budget options (a sequel drops next month), though he’s almost mischievously incompetent, in the sequel. of the continued success of The Princess Switch franchise. And so this year, there are more questionable options than ever before, from Brooke Shields in A Castle for Christmas, Elizabeth Hurley in Santa Claus Returns and Netflix’s first LGBTQ Christmas comedy, Single All the Way.
Aside from the odd exception (Let It Snow from 2019 was a surprise charmer), it’s mostly gift wrapping background noise, exactly the right level of expectation one should have before hitting Love Hard, the streamer’s first party offering of the year, a harmless time filler that’s hard to love but easy to love. It’s not exactly a resounding endorsement, but it’s a nice regurgitation of formula, knowing what to do and doing it competently – which in this subgenre and on this platform is already, sadly, quite a feat. .
It’s a story centered around the familiar trope of the town woman heading to a small town for the holiday season (the setting of roughly 90% of Lifetime and Hallmark’s Christmas movies). This time, our protagonist is Natalie (Nina Dobrev, former The Vampire Diaries), who miraculously makes a living as a dating columnist living in Los Angeles, or whatever British Columbia may pass for Los Angeles. Her sweep may be good for business (the worse the date, the better the story) but she is still waiting for one, or any other. a which is not a total disaster. Encouraged by her ridiculously stock best friend romcom (the kind that probably turns off when she leaves the room), who tells her all the men in LA are assholes, she changes her app settings and starts chatting with a guy alive. across the country. The two get along and Natalie decides to surprise him in person for the holidays, only to find out that she is getting caught. So the person she thought was Tag (Darren Barnet from Never Have I Ever) turns out to be Josh (Jimmy O Yang from Silicon Valley), which caused, you know, the hilarity.
The movie then splits into two ridiculous storylines: one has Natalie pretending to be Josh’s girlfriend to impress his family and the other has Natalie romanticizing Tag, pretending to be the woman of his dreams with Josh’s help. It’s all predictable, but not entirely uninteresting, thanks to a Dobrev game, which has a pungent chemistry with a lovable Yang. The great lessons may be painfully obvious (beauty is more than skin deep yada yada yada; perfection is overrated yada yada yada) but there is low satisfaction in watching Hernán Jiménez energetically join the dots without breaking a sweat. The script, by Danny Mackey and Rebecca Ewing, is nowhere near as witty and incisive as it thinks (press documents ambitiously call it When Harry Meets Sally Meets Roxanne) but there are a handful of well-constructed moments. – a surprisingly sweet ‘awakened’ riff on rape anthem Baby It’s Cold Outside and a Love Actually inspired ending – that helps us get through some of the lazier ones.
As Christmas romance comedies shoot in Canada and the US on a micro-budget, Love Hard is more tolerable than most, and in Netflix’s damp cave of underground expectations, that will be enough for now.