Director: Peter Hutchings
Cast: Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: NC16 (Sexual Scene and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 6 January 2022
Synopsis: Based on the Bestselling Novel by Sally Thorne. Resolving to achieve professional success without compromising her ethics, Lucy (Lucy Hale) embarks on a ruthless game of one-upmanship against cold and efficient nemesis Joshua (Austin Stowell), a rivalry that is complicated by her growing attraction to him.
We had not heard or read of Sally Thorne’s bestselling novel of the same name before this, so pardon us for judging the movie on its own, without say a comparison of how faithful an adaptation it was of the 2016 book. That said, we’ll tell you right away that ‘The Hating Game’ is one of the funniest, sexist and definitely most enjoyable romantic comedies we’ve seen in a while, and that you definitely don’t have to have read the book to adore this classic enemies-to-lovers love story.
The couple in question is Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and Joshua Templeman (Austin Stowell), respective assistants to the co-CEOs of the newly formed B&G Publishing formed from the merger of two very different publishing houses. Whereas Lucy’s company specialized in acclaimed literary fiction, Joshua’s firm was happily printing ghostwritten autobiographies by brain-dead former sporting celebrities. Given the circumstances by which they had met, it is no surprise that they have disliked each other since becoming co-workers.
Their animosity though also stems from their opposing personalities. While Lucy is warm, people-oriented and genuinely believes in the power of literature, Joshua is cold, exacting and regards the worth of the publications through the sales they generate. Seated opposite each other, the two spend much of the work day judging the other (she scoffs at how he wears the exact same coloured shirts in rotation to work every week; he calls her ‘Shortcake’ given how her parents are in strawberry farming) as well as the tidiness of their respective work desks, while occasionally engaging in public spats about grammar in front of other co-workers.
That the story unfolds through Lucy’s perspective should give you a hint that some of these preconceptions about Joshua will eventually be debunked, especially as she starts to learn more about him. It should also come as no surprise, going by her opening narration, that they will fall in love, given how Lucy reflects right at the start about how the weird ways in which hating someone can feel like falling for them. When their bosses reveal at a corporate meeting right before Thanksgiving that both of them would be pitted against each other for the newly created position of managing director, Lucy and Josh’s rivalry are suddenly taken to the next level.
Or so we are led to think – in truth, their relationship gets complicated before the end of the first act when Lucy has a wet dream of Joshua and they engage in a steamy kiss in the office elevator while on the way to their supposed dates at the same bar. While it is clear Lucy has the hots for Joshua, she – as well as us – are kept guessing whether Joshua indeed feels the same way about her, or is merely putting up a convincing show so that she would let down her guard and let him beat her at the race to be the boss of the other.
To screenwriter Christina Mengert’s credit, the barbs fly fast and furious between our two leads when they are fighting, even as their expressions of love are never less than heartfelt and sweet. In turn, Hale and Stowell deliver the lines with aplomb, such that their exchanges are consistently sharp and engaging. That Lucy and Joshua turn out this endearing is thanks to the great chemistry between the actors; not only is their comedic timing excellent, they also bring physical appeal and honest affection to their roles, such that you’ll instantly root for their budding relationship.
So even though their rivals-to-lovers story is somewhat familiar, ‘The Hating Game’ will leave you smiling from ear to ear with its winning combination of wit, humour and heart; in particular, you’ll feel yourself sympathizing with Joshua more than you’d expect, not least because he is so much more than the jerk that Lucy had made him out to be at the start. It is no secret that rom-coms ultimately succeed or fail on the shoulders of their leading couple, and this formulaic but utterly endearing entry triumphs with the absolutely charming pair of Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell. Like we said at the start, it is one of the most enjoyable rom-coms we’ve seen in a while, and we trust you’ll love it the same way.
(Witty, humourous and full of heart, this enemies-turned-lovers rom-com is one of the best we've seen in a while)
Review by Gabriel Chong