The holidays are here, and they came prepared with some steamy Christmas romance. And with how tough 2021 has been, it’s exactly what the people need and deserve right now. Peter Hutchings’s The Hating Game, adapted from Sally Thorne’s eponymous novel, is filled to the brim with fluffy flirtation and enough sexual tension to cut through it with a knife.
The Hating Game shamelessly embraces the classic rivals-to-lovers trope. Lucy (Lucy Hale) and Josh (Austin Stowell) are both assistants to the CEOs of a publishing company and couldn’t be more different. Lucy is outgoing, dresses in vibrant colors, and decorates her side of the office like a mini library. And there’s Josh, who is cold, aloof, and prefers to have his workspace devoid of clutter and personality.
The duo can’t seem to work together in any capacity and have even received HR complaints about their constant bickering. When a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity opens up, the two make a pact: whoever doesn’t get the position has to resign.
The biggest make-or-break factor of any romantic comedy is the chemistry between the leads. Thankfully, Hale and Stowell are excellent together and bring sex appeal and honest affection to their roles. As soon as they speak to each other, you’s immediately onboard with this budding relationship, just waiting for the moment they kiss for the first time.
Thanks to popular shows like Bridgerton and movies like To All the Boys I Loved Before, romantic movies are having something of a renaissance. Studios are starting to adapt classic romance novels without having to “purify” them. Instead of clean PG-13 ratings, these shows and films are finally getting the juicy sex scenes they deserve, and The Hating Game is no different. While not as hot as its novel counterpart, the film does have moments that will likely make you blush.
Screenwriter Christina Mengert does a good job staying close to the book while also allowing room for some differences. The only unlikeable aspect was her writing of Danny (Damon Daunno), Lucy’s coworker and not-so-secret admirer. In a typical romantic novels, he would be known as the second male lead and make the readers feel conflicted about who the heroine should choose. But in the film, he’s practically a nerd caricature to ensure audiences that he’s not Lucy’s endgame, even though (let’s be honest) they already knew that. It’s not only a hit to an otherwise great character from the book, but also a little mean-spirited, too.
The Hating Game is a glimpse into an even brighter future for the romance genre, particularly for movies actually getting a big screen release, however small. The romance publishing industry brings in so much money and has a vibrant community worldwide. It’s about time these wonderful stories get their due with a faithful (and hot!) movie or show adaptation worth falling for.
The Hating Game is now playing in theaters and VOD through Vertical Entertainment. Watch the trailer here.