There is a long and glorious tradition of office-related romantic comedies. Down with Love, His Girl Friday, and The Proposal are wonderful examples of this humorous war of the sexes. And now, we have a gloriously screwball new addition to this hallowed genre: The Hating Game, written by Christina Mengert and directed by Peter Hutchings, based on Sally Thorne’s book.
This iteration of the workspace rom-com is situated in a newly merged publishing firm, B&G. Two modest publishing firms have been forced by the diminishing returns of the business to join forces. So we find the deeply literate Helen (Sakina Jaffrey) joining forces with the aging lothario Bexley (Corbin Bernsen). Together they share the role of CEO. Assisting them in the work and essentially running the company for them are their assistants Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and Joshua Templeman (Austin Stowell). It should come as no surprise, given that Lucy and Joshua are a) polar opposites and b) stuck in a shared office, they absolutely despise each other.
The wrinkle, this time around, is that Helen and Bexley have decided they need a managing director to oversee the firm and limit the amount of time either CEO has to spend in each other’s company. Thus, do we find Lucy pitted against Joshua to determine who will become the managing director of B&G. As an added stake, Joshua and Lucy agree that whoever is chosen to serve as the new middle manager, the other shall take their leave of the firm by resigning.
“…Joshua and Lucy agree that whoever is chosen to serve as the new middle manager, the other shall take their leave…”
Were it simply the dueling personalities combating for the vaunted position of Managing Director, dayenu! Instead, The Hating Game treats us to the complex interpersonal sexual politics of two deeply attractive young professionals who find that hatred can convert to love. Together, they will spar through a paintball work exercise, Lucy becoming profoundly ill, and Joshua needing a date for his brother’s wedding.
I found the film to be an absolute comedic gem. Hale is a very talented physical comedian, and her pratfalls were worthy of many giggles. Stowell channels his inner Ryan Reynolds, and the delightful series of cute nicknames he developed for his counterpart – shortcake, for example – were whimsical and appropriately weird. As with all solid romantic comedies, there are no truly bad people. Rather, everyone has been developed fully to include laudable and deplorable aspects. Lucy, for example, has a propensity for eavesdropping on private conversations. Joshua is too ruthless in his business dealings, so he comes off as cold and dispassionate whenever engaged in business.
I can only imagine, given the effervescent and genuinely upbeat nature of the script, the book had to have been simply delightful. Some books lend themselves to adaptation, and The Hating Game is definitely one such read. If you’re in the market for a screwball office romance with lots of genuine guffaws peppered throughout, all delivered by a wondrous cast, I would strongly encourage checking this movie out. It’s well written, directed, acted, and possesses all the qualities one looks for in such entertainment. It is a great flick for the holidays.
"…a great flick for the holidays."