Released: 29th July
Seen: 17th August
Recently one of the big discourses around cinema has been the idea that superhero movies are destroying cinema. The idea is that they’re all the same and overwhelming the market, every movie nowadays wants to be just like them so we don’t get anything new or exciting. Respectfully, that feels like a case of hating the popular thing just because it’s popular. As someone who sits through hundreds of films a year for this blog, maybe half a dozen of them are superhero films and if anything, they’re a nice respite because they’re usually at least entertaining enough that it’s a few hours enjoyably spent.
No, you want to know what the real death of cinema looks like? It looks like yet another bland boring romance movie starring a pair of attractive people who can just barely get lines of dialogue out playing boring cliche characters with minimal chemistry (if any) who regurgitate the exact same romance plot we’ve seen a thousand times over… anyway, let’s talk about Purple Hearts
Purple Hearts tells the story of bleeding heart liberal Cassie Salazar (Sofia Carson), a waitress and aspiring musician who will lecture you on the intricacies of feminist theory at the drop of a hat and US Marine and staunch right-wing control freak Luke Morrow (Nicholas Galitzine) who is preparing to go on his first deployment and is fine hanging out with people who have no qualms about yelling ‘kill the Arabs in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Clearly, these two are at the polar opposite ends of the political spectrum, two people who would never have any need to associate with each other let alone marry each other… except Cassie has Diabetes and can’t afford her insulin while Luke owes money to a drug dealer so the two of them hatch a plan together.
The plan is as simple as it is stupid and cliche… they’ll get married for the marine benefits. Getting married would mean that Cassie would have good insurance and can therefore afford her life-saving medication (hey America, this kind of story is literally only possible in your country. Any other country could not tell this story… fix that, we’re tired of this story) and it’d also mean they would get an extra 2000 in Luke’s pay which he could use to pay off the dealer. So the two of them just have to convincingly pretend to be a married couple for a while, not sure how long specifically because ‘diabetes medication’ doesn’t have a strict end date but that just means they’ll be trying to keep this charade going until they eventually get found out so we can have a third act climax.
OK, to be as positive about Purple Hearts as it is possible to be, there are moments when you can actually buy into the idea that these two want to be in the same room. There are some sequences that are just flat-out adorable and show the two of them could actually work as a couple. A scene where Cassie and Luke eat jalapenos and see who can handle the heat the longest shows a playfulness that makes you root for them, there’s a sense of fun and a reason to want these characters to keep this thing going. Little moments here and there could work… but then these two ‘characters’ remember that they’re meant to be complete opposites and so we have to go back to their pathetic arguments which is when you remember that these are badly written cliches that gained sentience.
Throughout Purple Hearts we are shown again and again that Cassie is a liberal and Luke is a conservative, this is evidenced by such on-the-nose moments as Cassie hanging a gay pride flag and a black lives matter flag right beside the American flag, or in moments where Luke casually mocks the idea of preferred pronouns when no one else brought it up. It tries to display both sides of the political aisle as written by someone who doesn’t actually like or know anyone on either side of the aisle. It’s like a pair of strawmen were assembled for the purpose of mocking both sides and then they’re made to kiss because it’s a romance and that just has to happen.
Those moments where they have conflicts about their beliefs could actually be interesting if they could use them to maybe have a real discussion about the issues. Talk about why Cassie’s progressive beliefs are important to her, have Luke make a good case for why a strong military is needed, these are topics that could use exploring and might make for an interesting experience. Have them meet in the middle on some things, have him realise that his subtle bigotry is bad, have her realise that she couldn’t have her beliefs without someone else’s sacrifice… nope, they argue and then get overwhelmed by passion and we drop the topic like a lead balloon.
Speaking of lead balloons, Purple Hearts regularly breaks to follow a subplot where Cassie writes basic bland ballads and tries to have a music career. This exists for one reason and one reason only, that being that the actress playing her is also a singer and therefore they had to work that talent in somewhere. At least that’s what it feels like, it feels like a tacked-on story added to accommodate the leads principal talent and it’s undeniable that she’s a good singer, there just aren’t any good songs here. Every original song in Purple Hearts sounds almost identical and they’re all just the most lifeless things that you’ve heard and it’s somehow music that’s meant to go viral which… no? No, no way does this go viral. It’s not interesting or fun enough to catch the masses, it’s barely background music.
Hell, that’s the best way to describe Purple Hearts as a whole, it’s neither interesting nor fun and barely rates above something to be played in the background while you’re doing something else. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but maybe it’d be better if it was because at least the worst thing in the world would have something interesting about it. This has an idea that it never uses, passable performances and a predictable structure that makes Purple Hearts just not worth the time. I almost wish it was worse so I could justify the hyperbole of demanding a purple heart for having sat through it, it isn’t even bad enough to justify that joke!