This review contains spoilers for the book and the movie.

Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game is justly beloved. As Em wrote in her review, the novel is quirky, funny, romantic, delightful, and most of all, charming. It’s also sexy as hell. Romancelandia was pumped when Thorne’s book was optioned in 2017 and we’ve waited ever since to see Lucy and Josh on the big screen. Yesterday, they arrived–the movie landed in theaters and may also be streamed.

I’ll admit, I’ve been nervous about this adaptation–favorite books so rarely make favorite movies. I watched it with Dr. Feelgood, curious to see what he’d think about it–he loved it, sap that he is. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I enjoyed it and suspect many of you will too.

 

Let me start by talking about what works.

I give high marks for the casting–Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell not only give lovely life to Thorne’s leads, the two have incandescent chemistry. Stowell, in particular, wonderfully realizes Josh’s broody, frustrated love for Lucy. His Josh is a man who seems to have it all and yet Stowell deftly shows Josh’s insecurities–it’s easy to see why Lucy can’t resist him. Josh’s character is also given a deeper backstory–disappointingly, there’s little here about Lucy’s family and her psychological history–and it’s impossible not to root for him to overcome his fear of being hurt by yet another person he loves. When Hale and Stowell banter–the scene where they put down their imaginary weapons while sitting at their respective desks is brilliant–you can’t wait for them to do it again.

The movie is also–woo hoo!!!–genuinely sexy. This is not, thank the gods, a closed door film. Lucy and Josh are both profoundly lust-struck and every time they touch, it’s steamy. Lucy is more sexually aggressive than Josh and it’s great fun to watch her enjoy herself with Josh in bed. Their love scenes are sensual and emotionally rich and–I so love this–filled with humor.

The supporting cast is good, especially Damon Daunno as Danny–he’s funny and far more of a catch than he is in the book. The film looks good–it’s set in Manhattan–and the costumes are appealingly appropriate.

What doesn’t work?

The pacing is uneven–at times the film seems too slow, fixated on small irrelevancies, and, in others, things that matter are rushed. Lucy and Josh’s famous elevator kiss seems to come out of nowhere while the way the Big Mis plays out takes an unbelievably long time.

 

The latter is especially problematic. For much of the film, Josh’s love for Lucy is clearly what drives almost all he does and yet the way in which he lets her believe he’s a dick who just wants to hurt her over their job competition makes him seem cruel. I didn’t buy the reasoning behind it–this did not happen in the book–and I didn’t like it AT ALL.

I’d have liked more of Lucy’s backstory, more of the Smurfs, more of Lucy’s life outside of work and Josh–the woman has no friends or really anything in her life other than her job and the hating game she plays with Josh. In some ways, there just wasn’t enough in the film–the movie clocks in at an hour and 42 minutes which wasn’t long enough to do both characters and their hot, halting love story justice.

The Hating Game isn’t perfect but I’m very happy it got made–I hope it will be successful enough that other sexy rom-coms will follow. I’d give it a B and I bet had I not read and so adored the book, my grade would be higher.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Dabney Grinnan
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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.