“The Hating Game” adds a fun twist to the typical romantic comedy

Nothing creates mixed emotions quite like “The Hating Game” directed by Peter Hutchings. The new-age romantic comedy, released on Dec. 10, takes place in a turbulent work environment at a post-merger book publishing company where creatives and business folk butt heads on whether to create literary art or a profitable business. It is also where two executive assistants — Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and Josh Templeman (Austin Stowell) — navigate a life of “hate” with a spoonful of sexual tension.

The two get into tedious battles, marked by countless HR complaints, Josh’s seemingly smug nickname for Lucy of “Shortcake” and Lucy comparing Josh to a heartless frat star who roofies his way into girls’ hearts. However, this did not last long. Only 23 minutes into the movie do they engage in a rather captivating kiss in a stalled elevator. Not to mention, on their way to take Lucy to a “date” with their rather geeky co-worker Danny Fletcher (Damon Dueno). Josh thought the date was fake when Lucy brought it up — which it was — so Lucy asked Danny to go, as Josh implied he was going to spy on them. The date was “psychological warfare” to distract Josh from a job they were competing for — to be the new managing director at BG Publishing. But that’s not all, she also wanted to toy with him a bit, considering she had a dream about him the night before.

Due to the adversarial nature of their relationship, it took Lucy a while to trust Josh — despite his several well-intentioned actions — which I found quite annoying. He took care of her while sick, cleaned her apartment, sent flowers along with countless other good deeds, but she kept thinking he wanted to get in her head about the job.

At the same time, there is an instance where Lucy’s doubts about Josh’s good-natured gestures could be valid. This is when the business-ey CEO was talking to Josh about Lucy being a poor fit for the new role and how he didn’t want her —  a young, creative, ambitious woman — to have it. The language in this scene was rather sexist and led Lucy to believe Josh’s actions were a ploy to distract her from getting the job.

After this point, the two fought until the very end. Their feud was quite the spectacle because the viewer could obviously tell Lucy’s viewpoint was misunderstood, as she only heard a small portion of the conversation. Then watching a lonely Josh navigate life seeing little things that reminded him of her, such as a smurf street performer. Do note, Lucy collects smurf trinkets and actively participates in smurf blog culture, which is supposedly a thing? A funny note to add, when Lucy overheard that sexist conversation between Josh and the business-ey CEO, she left a grumpy smurf on his desk as she stormed out of the office to talk trash about Josh to Danny. I found this to be quite symbolic and pleasingly petty as Lucy worked her way to the top. The movie does a great job at incorporating seemingly small details into the big picture, such as the smurf blog being the inspiration for her final job interview presentation.

However, for me, the highlight of the movie was at Josh’s brother’s wedding. As repayment for Josh cleaning Lucy’s apartment and caring for her when she was sick, Lucy had to attend the wedding as Josh’s plus-one. Not only was it his brother’s wedding, but his brother was also marrying Josh’s ex-girlfriend, which is not only a major red flag in and of itself but also the biggest red flag of the movie — if not cinematic history. Josh’s entire family is full of surgeons, except him, which makes his father believe Josh is a failure. Josh dropped out of medical school to pursue his MBA at Harvard, as if that isn’t enough. After his father had a few drinks too many, he berated Josh for being a failure, which Lucy put a stop to by acknowledging all the great things he does — playing on the whole “maybe he is a good guy” cliché.

My biggest complaint is the film could have played into the whole nemesis theme more. I would have loved to see more passive-aggressive fights between the two, but that might just be me. From the very beginning, I was able to tell there was more sexual tension between the two than actual frustration — to the point where the conflict felt almost one-note. If the nemesis dynamic had been explored more fully, the characters would have felt more fleshed out, because I got the impression that Josh was playfully teasing her the entire time. Maybe the goal of the movie was to teach the audience not to fixate on things so much, considering Lucy’s fixation on her “hate” for Josh made her oblivious to the signals he was giving off.

This movie is by far a stereotypical cheesy romantic comedy, and while I was not a big fan during the first portion, I would watch it again. I thought it was a horrible movie for the first bit because it was complaining about the business-ey CEO sexualizing books to get sales, and then the movie basically does the same thing with the whole nemesis-turned-lover theme. But overall, it was pretty solid — wasn’t exceedingly great, but I also have next to no complaints. I actually liked it in an ironic way, so go ahead and rent it on iTunes, or catch it in theaters.