Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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It is Hard Not To Love Jimmy O. Yang in ‘Love Hard’

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To welcome the festive season, Netflix released its latest holiday rom-com “Love Hard” on Nov. 5, its name a combination of iconic films “Love Actually” and “Die Hard.” 

Directed by Hernán Jiménez, “Love Hard” follows a Los Angeles journalist named Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) who desperately searches for her soulmate through the online dating app Flirt Alert, but ultimately strikes out each time. To amend her losses, she writes about her disastrous first dates for a column titled “Always the Bridesmaid” at a trendy lifestyle website. When she matches with her dream guy named Josh Lin (Jimmy O. Yang) on Flirt Alert, she decides to take a leap of faith and surprise him by visiting him for Christmas at Lake Placid, N.Y. However, her trip takes the wrong turn when she learns that she had been catfished by Josh, who used his childhood friend Tag’s (Darren Barnet) photos for his dating profile. To make it up to her, Josh offers to help set her up with the real Tag under one condition — she has to pretend to be Josh’s girlfriend for the holidays. 

“Love Hard” takes a jab at the ugly side of online dating that is tainted with deceitful lies, especially when it comes to physical appearance. Aside from his sports-related hobbies, Tag is a Japanese American man who possesses a rugged and muscular look with a dashing smile and charming eyes. While Tag physically matches the ideal societal standards of an attractive masculine man, Josh is a Chinese American man who is dorky, introverted, short-statured and hides his true self behind his glasses frame that most people perceive as geeky. However, Yang’s portrayal of Josh gives the audience a refreshing and realistic take on a romantic-comedy protagonist who may just steal your heart, even if he may not necessarily look like your typical “Prince Charming” on the outside. 

Later in the film, Josh confesses to Natalie that he had been using Flirt Alert for a year and only had three swipes in total, one of which was his old English teacher. Being one of Yang’s many one-liner jokes throughout this film, Josh says “She’s 70 now, and has a pacemaker. Having sex with her would literally kill her.” Out of curiosity, and perhaps anger, he experimented with his dating profile by using photos of a standard hot guy like Tag. This quickly garnered him more than 85 swipes within five minutes. Before he could even stop it, Josh quickly found himself falling for Natalie. 

As the movie progresses, we learn that Josh is a candle-maker who still lives in his family’s basement. He is in constant battle with his older brother, Owen Lin (Harry Shum Jr.), as they try to fight for their doting parents’ appraisal and attention. However, Josh’s sweet personality and great sense of humor overpowers his perceived flaws. Ultimately, he redeems himself as a thoughtful man who is willing to help the girl he likes pursue another man — even if it hurts him. 

By casting Yang as the male lead, “Love Hard” defies the role’s stereotypes of having a white and “easy-on-the-eyes” actor play the lead. The media has long portrayed Asian men as unattractive in an emasculated manner with most of them facing racism on dating apps. “Love Hard” joins alongside “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings” in breaking this stereotype and showing the world what Asian men can bring to the table. Yang himself acknowledged the sensitive topic surrounding this film’s inclusion of a dorky Chinese American man as the main lead. 

“Nobody feels that more than me, being the guy who looks like that and is Asian,” Yang said in a Vanity Fair interview.  

But like any other Christmas rom-com movie, “Love Hard” suffers from a predictable plot and lack of character development. With a racial factor in question, critics may be quick to denounce the film for its lousy attempt at integrating an Asian male lead into the rom-com genre. However, can’t it just be enough to enjoy the film’s portrayal of a romantic, bashful male lead that is just as adorable as any other rom-com male lead? In fact, Yang has said that the role of Josh was not written with a particular race in mind. 

Overall, “Love Hard” is actually not that hard to love. It is best to see the film for yourself. Whether or not it meets your expectations, you will surely get a good laugh out of it just in time for Christmas. As best said by Yang, “At the end of the day, if you don’t think I’m hot, you might think Darren’s hot. You might think my dad is hot. You might think Harry is hot. We give you a whole spectrum of cute Asian guys.”

Annabella Johan is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ajohan@uci.edu.