Review by Camden Ferrell
Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum has had plenty of experience directing episodes of popular television shows like Dead to Me, Empire, and Gossip Girl. Now, for the first time in over seven years, she is directing a feature film. Purple Hearts is her newest movie that tries to blend socially relevant commentary with high stakes romance and drama but falls flat of achieving anything worthwhile on either front.
Cassie is a singer-songwriter, struggling as she waits tables and tries to afford her insulin. Luke is a Marine with a troubled past and skeletons in his closet. Despite being radically different in their beliefs and ideologies, the two agree to marry for the benefits that the military would provide. However, as their fraudulent marriage progresses, they learn more about themselves and each other. The fake lovers to genuine lover trope is overplayed but can still be interesting if done properly, and this movie had the added benefit of chasing social and politically relevance as well.
However, it is clear very early on that the screenplay is merely a superficial exploration of its ideas and themes. While it’s more guilty in the first half of this particular crime, the movie is full of political buzzwords that are just thrown around in an attempt to feel relevant with no real intention of diving deeper into it. It feels cheap and lazy in the way it tries to throw around the same banal and tepid progressive and conservative talking points that do nothing for its characters or plot. The divide between its leads is apparent without the meaningless and consistent pandering to no single particular demographic.
The movie is led by Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine. Carson has found success with Disney and their Descendants franchise, and Galitzine has recently starred in the Cinderella remake from last year. Even though their characters are supposed to grow closer over the course of the movie, their chemistry is non-existent, and they never really impress with their individual performances. Carson’s casting definitely makes more sense, and her singing isn’t bad at all, but Galitzine feels severely miscast as the brooding and troubled Marine.
Despite being over two hours, the movie fails to tell an emotionally compelling story, and we never really care about the characters even when tragedy strikes in more ways than one. It definitely tries its hardest to pull at your heartstrings, but a weak script with lackluster direction and two leads with no chemistry is a recipe for disaster with a movie like this.
Purple Hearts won’t entrance you, make you believe in love, cry, or think about our current political climate in any worthwhile manner. It’s a shallow romantic drama that has a few decent pop songs to add minimal momentum to this two hour drag. Made with the bare minimum of technical quality, there’s really not much to enjoy for audiences unless they are particularly fond of its leading actors.
Purple Hearts is streaming on Netflix July 29.
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