Photo: ‘The Hating Game’
The hating game is simple – Lucy and Joshua Templeman hate each other and try to make each others’ lives at work a living hell. Assistants at a publishing house, their close quarters, and competitive natures make it impossible for them to see eye to eye, in fact, they’d rather get into a physical fight than agree on something. Lucy played by namesake Lucy Hale and Josh, played by Austin Stowell together turn the entertaining, angst-filled, and high-stakes book into a sexy rom-com that delivers more than we expected.
‘The Hating Game’: Enemies to Lovers, Work-place Tryst and So Much More
The film by Peter Hutchings is a rendition of ‘The Hating Game,’ the hit YA novel by Sally Thorne. It was released in 2016 but it gained traction over the past year as fans fell in love with Josh’s dark demeanor that seems to only crack for Lucy herself. They start off as enemies but as the tension builds and their friendship blossoms, the characters begin to fall in love. Fans knew what to expect stepping into the theaters but the entire audience was pleased to find that Stowell and Hale fill their shoes very well.
Lucy and Josh work at the same publishing house, Bexley & Gamin after their very different publishing companies had to merge to stay afloat. Lucy is the exact opposite of Josh – ready to please, nice, and idealistic whose life dream has been to work in the literature industry. Josh on the other hand is like the scrooge of the office.
Austin Stowell Joins Lucy Hale to Create a Spicy On-Screen Romance
Lucy and Josh’s roles require tons of chemistry, a perfect juxtaposition between her cute and kitschy vibe and his corporate detached one. Thankfully Stowell and Hale have major chemistry and we are living for watching them interact on screen, whether it be the paintball scene, their meetings at work, or their daily games.
Besides the ever-iconic hating game, they place ones like the staring game, where he watches Lucy tediously apply her red lipstick or Lucy messing up his scarily neat desk or even arguing about grammar in front of their co-workers. But when they are pitted to compete against one another for the same job, the games and the biting remarks take on a new meaning, and suddenly, for Lucy and Josh, hating someone feels a lot like falling for them too.
Lucy and Josh, A Little Disastrous and A Lot of Cuteness
The movie does a good job of capitalizing on the best rom-com tropes, like the “major misunderstanding that leads to tragic heartbreak.” As Lucy feels admiration and affection replace her animosity for Josh she’s torn between the truth and whether this is just another game between them. Or when she realizes that this isn’t just a physical attraction because Josh has abs for days but because she genuinely is beginning to fall in love.
The development of their relationship and the moment they both realize that this is real is not just exciting to watch but really beautiful and heartening. Their bond carries real emotional weight, conversations, and moments that peel back the thin layers of hate they thought to be the walls of their relationship.
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Thorne Changes the YA Genre and Hutchins The Rom-Com Scene
Thorne’s book is one of many that is revolutionizing the romance genre for young adults, combining a sexy, smart love story with all the emotional heartache that makes us cry at nights with the book clutched to our chests. The movie and the screenwriter, Christina Mengert, does a good job of translating that to screen, honoring the integrity of all the important steamy scenes between Lucy and Josh, something that fans of the couple will be thrilled to see.
Unfortunately, besides the excellent chemistry, some parts of the movie fail to get on par with the original novel. The book is big on funky humor, especially Lucy’s witty and at times mortifying jokes and commentary. The movie fails to convey this in a way that is organic and non-cringeworthy, inserting random scenes that would have done better to reflect this if they had more space to grow and develop.
Rom-Com or Rom-Flop?
It also fails to allow enough time for the slow-burn to build, for their intimacy to grow and the background of their relationship to make more sense. But, books have the liberty to do that more freely and thoroughly as there’s only so much that can be done in a two-hour film. For the time span they have, the relationship is still adorable, their emotional connection still strong and their overall arc still passionate. It almost feels like one long tv-episode, which works for some audiences but is annoying to others when you consider how ‘The Hating Game’ should be a feature film.
A lot of their strengths as a couple come from Stowell, who is great at playing the grumpy, brooding man who has a soft spot for one girl, the girl of his dreams. It bodes well in the genre and with audiences who can’t help but swoon over his secret displays of affection and hearty love declarations.
Rom-coms can be easy to mess up, to make too cringy, too romantic, too basic, and a million other adjectives that can encapsulate many of the mass-produced movies that flood our streaming services. But, ‘The Hating Game’ surprises us with the ease that it takes for the cast and crew to create a well-flowing, oddly endearing, and sexy story that makes the heated build-up oh so worth it.
Watch ‘The Hating Game’ in theaters today, 103-minute run-time and Rated R!
By Mireille Karadanaian
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