Twelve Days of Completely Secular Yuletide: Did Love Hard’s Natalie Bauer want love, actually?

As a sucker for Asian representation, specifically Darren Barnett, this film was a must-watch. Love Hard is a Christmas rom-com that has been in the Top Ten on Netflix since its release. This movie follows Los Angeles writer Natalie Bauer who takes a leap of faith by flying to upstate New York after a slew of bad dates to surprise one of her matches on Flirt Alert (the movie’s fake dating app) for Christmas.

When Natalie is talking with her best friend as she packs for the flight, Natalie is sporting a “Write On” graphic tee that pulled me right out of the story. As a writer, I personally thought it was unrealistic to have such a cringey shirt… at least I would hope so. Maybe that’s part of the reason why, after a flight across the country, she discovers she was catfished.

Natalie writes about her bad dates for work in her ever-so-original column titled Always A Bridesmaid. Her boss is like a SoulCycle instructor but without the class. No seriously, we’re introduced to him while he’s on a stationary bike. The audience also learns that he’s interested in men, as he makes an HR “joke” about sleeping with a guy in the office. Towards the end of the film, her boss ends up going to New York because she has not submitted her story about this cross-country trip. He adds to the harmful depiction of gay men in Christmas movies along with Dan Levy’s character in Happiest Season (2020).

Throughout the film, typical of modern holiday movies, there were references to Love, Actually (2003) and whether Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas movie. Love Hard was directed and written by non-Asians, which shaped the depiction of Asian men in the film. Josh’s father is played by everyone’s Asian dad, James Saito, the guy in the fake profile is played by Darren Barnett and Josh, the man catfishing Natalie, was played by Jimmy O. Yang. Harry Shum Jr. even makes a surprise appearance as Josh’s older brother. As Barnett is more white-passing compared to O. Yang, it was a bit frustrating how O. Yang was seen as the less desirable man right off the bat. This shows the harms of colourblind casting — which refers to casting a role without a particular race in mind.

Because of this, I had mixed feelings about the love confession at the end of the film.

Natalie doesn’t seem that bummed out about not having a relationship. Truly. Even with her monologue about ‘finding your other half’ at the beginning, I didn’t think it was believable for her to be desperately in need of a man. It could be because of her bad date burnout, but regardless, it would be refreshing if the creators leaned into the main character having this mindset.

I would rate this movie three out of five stars because it fills the void of wanting to see a Christmas movie with a few good jokes. Love Hard might not be considered a must-watch, but it wasn’t the worst way to spend two hours during finals season.