The Hating Game – movie review

When vastly different publishing firms merge, sparks fly between two key employees. Insults fly. It’s six-shooters at 20 paces in the romantic comedy The Hating Game.

The pair – Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and Joshua Templeman (Austin Stowell) – sit opposite one another. He’s neat, cold and ambitious. She’s a people-pleaser. He calls her “shortcake” – which she can’t stand. Now they’re both up for the job of Managing Director and the tension just moved up a gear. In reality, they’re both into each other. And competing for the same job has simply made things even more awkward.

Turning up the heat, one day Lucy wears a little black dress with hot heels to work. When Joshua asks whether she has a date that night, Lucy says “yes” – but is then in a bind because he claims he’s going to the same venue at the same time. Panicked, and out to trigger jealousy, Lucy approaches the office nerd, Danny (Damon Daunno), who’s just announced his resignation. Danny believes it is a real date and it turns out that he and Lucy get along well. But there’s no getting past “the feels” that Lucy and Joshua share.

Still, there are several false alarms as they continue to dance around each other. He nurses her through sickness and ends up taking her to his brother’s wedding, where a big secret is revealed. The question is, can she really trust him, or is he playing her to get to the big prize – that job that both are up for?

Based on a 2016 novel by Sally Thorne and written by Christina Mengert, The Hating Game follows a predictable trajectory. There’s hardly anything original here, although there are some imaginative one liner barbs thrown along the way as Lucy and Joshua engage in one-upmanship. Director Peter Hutchings (Then Came You) plays up the pair’s differences in building the sexual tension. Nevertheless, the piece felt contrived to me. I didn’t really buy the romantic link between them, although I appreciated Lucy Hale’s gregarious performance.

I also thought Damon Daunno made a decent fist of it as the hopeful caught in the “friend” zone. The Hating Game plays on stereotypes, such as the arrogant, sexist co-owner of the business, Bexley (Corbin Bernsen). He’s the “villain”, but without nuance … and that doesn’t impress me. Sakina Jaffrey is more convincing as the other side of the partnership, Helen.

The movie is strictly lightweight fare that brings a few muted laughs along the way, but doesn’t leave any lasting impression.

Alex First

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