Title: The Hating Game
Released: 2021

Source Material
Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Published: 2016

Warning: If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, stop now, because I don’t want to play the Spoiling Game!

As excited as we get for literary adaptations, there’s always that undercurrent of fear that Hollywood will totally eff it up. (Because they sure do that a lot!) But, dear readers, I’m extremely happy to report that the film based on Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game (which is on our required romance list) is an absolute delight. And I’ve got the science to prove it! So join me in the lab as we dissect this delectable rom-com, but make sure you grab a cocktail first, because we gotta put the game in The Hating Game, hey-o!

The Official FYA The Hating Game Drinking Game

Drink once when:

  • Josh calls Lucy “Shortcake”
  • Lucy applies makeup
  • A mug printed with a phrase or joke appears
  • Lucy secretly rummages around Josh’s desk
  • Josh and Lucy start madly kissing
  • You wonder if Lucy is cold because it’s freaking winter in NYC and she’s in a dress with no tights
  • Strawberries are referenced
  • Anyone says the name of the movie

Drink twice when:

  • Smurfs appear or are mentioned
  • The bride starts talking to Lucy at the wedding because AWKWARD
  • Josh’s dad starts his toast at the wedding because HELLA AWKWARD

Take a shot when:

  • Lucy downs her whiskey
  • Lucy pulls off Josh’s towel

I do want to preface this analysis by admitting something that my fellow scientists might find sloppy, but it’s been a while since I read The Hating Game. I know, I know, it seems like shoddy research, BUT hear me out: any time I’ve re-read a book before watching the adaptation, I’ve been disappointed 98% of the time, because I just nit pick the shit out of it. Whereas, if the book isn’t super fresh in my mind, any small changes blow right past me, and I can simply enjoy revisiting the characters and the story.

So, if you got your PhD in The Hating Game, you might read this report and tear it apart because I missed a tweak or an update that was made for the film, and hey, that’s cool, Doc. But this here scientist is more interested in how the movie captures the spirit and the enemistry of the book, so let us begin!

The Casting Game

Lucy Hale, a pretty brunette with red lips and dark brows, as Lucy

Lucy Hale as Lucy Hutton

I never got into Pretty Little Liars, so this is my first screen hang with Lucy, and I love her! She infuses Lucy (Hutton) with smarts and a spark of eccentricity without veering into “Quirky Heroine” territory, and she has a kind of scary intensity to her that really works for the character. Plus, she’s GORGEOUS but in an approachable way. Like you would have no problem asking her which brand of lipstick she uses. (Seriously, Lucy, what lipstick is that?)

Austin Stowell, a handsome white actor in a tie and suit jacket, as Josh

Austin Stowell as Joshua Templeton

As an (initially) uptight prick, Josh is a challenging character to make sympathetic—not to mention sexy—but Austin Stowell does a killer job. He is pretty much exactly how I pictured Lucy’s archnemesis, from his clean cut good looks to his stiff posture to his Wall-Street-asshole line delivery. And when he begins to show his true feelings for Lucy, that icy exterior starts melting away into a puddle of sa-woon.

Sakina Jaffrey, an older Indian American woman, as Helen

Sakina Jaffrey as Helen

I loved Sakina on Timeless (and then on Little Voice), so I was super happy to see her show up as Lucy’s boss, Helen. She’s warm and supportive, but is also reeeeally good at yelling at Josh’s boss (the dick who heads up the Bexley arm of the publishing house).

Damon Daunno, a man with brown curly hair and a friendly face, as Danny

Damon Daunno as Danny

Damon Daunno doesn’t have a ton of credits, but I will give him a LOT of credit for playing Danny without making him a pushover or a M’Lady. I honestly can’t recall how his character comes across in the book, but in the movie, he’s a goofy, sunny sort of dude, so much so that when he easily agrees to head to the Friend Zone with Lucy, it’s weirdly believable?!

The Enemistry Game

While their first few battles of banter are a little too slick, the animosity between Lucy and Josh is believable, which serves as excellent kindling when the sparks start to fly. It helps that both actors are VERY attractive, of course, but the tension that builds in their scenes together feels authentic, not to mention palpable. Their first kiss in the elevator is smokin’, and the difference between the size of the actors (Lucy Hale is petite, Austin Stowell is tall) is put to very good use throughout the movie.

And yes, we do get the Mirror Game! With excellent use of the middle finger from Josh.

Lucy and Josh, sitting at desks opposite each other in a big room, staring at each other

The Sexing Game

Okay, I understand that if a romance novel was 100% accurately adapted, it would result in a porn flick, but y’all, this movie has an R rating. You can do a lot with that R! Like, R the cuss out of that R! And yet, we only get one measly sex scene, and it’s basically a fade to black, i.e. CINEMATIC ROBBERY. Things seem so promising when Lucy pulls that towel from Josh’s waist (drink!), and yes, simply seeing him shirtless is *fans self*, but we don’t just love the book for its quippy dialogue, ermkay?!

The Pacing Game

This might seem like minor praise, but the pacing of the film was perfect IMO, and it really made the story work. Zipping from one plot point to the next, the movie never gets bogged down in the typical rom-com traps—we don’t have to spend too long with Lucy being mad over a misunderstanding, or wait foreeeever until these two hotties finally wise up to their chemistry. This is a film that knows exactly what it is, and it DELIVERS with easy breezy style and minimal fuss.

The Concluding Game

Based on these findings, I can say with scientific certainty that The Hating Game is a spicy little treat, with all of the trappings I love to suspend disbelief about: amazing NYC apartments owned by people on an executive assistant salary; adorable, leg-baring outfits that keep you warm in the winter; and the world of publishing in general. Sure, it lacks the heat of the book, but it’s still a satisfying romp that doubles as a holiday movie, so you have an excuse to watch it every year! Merry Christmas, Shortcake.

Have you watched it yet? Join me in the comments for a scientific discourse!

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.