Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Purple Hearts is a richly-sketched romance punctuated by terrific original songs cowritten by lead Sofia Carson (Disney’s Descendants, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists). Carson’s Cassie and love interest Luke (Nicholas Galitzine, 2021’s Cinderella, excellent queer drama Handsome Devil) have chemistry that one can feel from their very first encounter. Spruced up by the musicality and the will-they-or-won’t-they vibe between Cassie and Luke, Purple Hearts is another great addition to Netflix’s ever-growing content library. Even the more predictable elements are part of its cheesy, comforting charms.

Late on her rent and swimming in medical bills related to her diabetes diagnosis, Cassie doubles as a waitress while struggling to find success in her band The Loyal. Cassie, who also teaches piano in her spare time, is in desperate need of a major life change. When she reconnects with her childhood best friend, Frankie (Chosen Jacobs, Stephen King’s It, Hulu’s Castle Rock), a potentially brilliant idea is hatched. As Frankie and his fellow Marine Corps University pals prepare to ship out to Iraq in just two weeks, Cassie suggests a plan to rip off the government—marine spouses get full health benefits, and a phony marriage could be mutually beneficial to both parties. Frankie politely declines, though his bunkmate, Luke, appears to think twice about Cassie’s proposal.

Luke has money issues of his own. A former addict, Luke owes a scummy dealer $50,000, and has estranged his father (Linden Ashby, MTV’s Teen Wolf, Mortal Kombat) in the process. Over the course of eight months, Luke may have completely turned his life around (and gotten ridiculously buff in the process), but once he runs out of options, a marriage to Cassie seems to be the only way out. The duo hatch a plan together reluctantly—Cassie has a policy against dating Marines, and Luke view her as a predictable “liberal nut.” Nevertheless, they agree on speaking consistently whilst Luke is away in Iraq, backing up their relationship in case people start asking questions. What begins as a simple arrangement grows needlessly complicated. Writing back and forth to one another, Luke becomes something of a muse for Cassie’s music. Just as The Loyal begins to experience true success thanks to viral popularity, tragedy strikes.

Wounded in action, Luke and Cassie must put their relationship to the real test as he ships home to stay with her, and is awarded a purple heart. Cassie is forced to accommodate Luke in the comfort of her small apartment, all while keeping up the charade of being his wife. Honestly, though the movie may feel quite predictable, I loved watching Luke and Cassie’s relationship blossom. Much of this can be attributed to the chemistry of Carson and Galitzine. The former performs passionately to her pop power-ballad best, and the latter brings a sweet, vulnerable side to a hardened character.

Purple Hearts is an impeccably cast and deeply sweet love story that will doubtless find a special place in the hearts of Netflix viewers around the world. Perhaps I just watched it in the right mood, but I fell in love with the rich characters. Cassie in particular gets the bulk of screen time; thanks to her personal, deeply passionate music, we are given a window into her inner thoughts as well. Writers Liz W. Garcia and Kyle Jarrow form a lovable, so-wrong-it’s-right coupling that remains a highlight among 2022’s romantic offerings.

Purple Hearts ships out to Netflix when it premieres on Friday, July 29th.

One thought on “Film Review: Purple Hearts

  1. Struck by how much I had enjoyed and, yes, been stretched and plumbed by viewing Netflix’ Purple Hearts, I sought out others’ reviews. I was so astounded by how far the first one I read (Claire Shaffer, NYTimes) was from my own experience of the film, I sought out other reviews. Yours was the next I found. Soooooo . . . thank you!

    As a regular NYT subscriber, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at the desiccated intellectualism which inured its reviewer from experiencing the film as a whole. And, yes, yesterday was a special day for me: Preparing from scratch a Ukrainean borscht meal to follow a late Sunday PM sauna for six at my place I learned just how problematic my 86-year-old frame (wrists, elbows, shoulders!) had become when it came to hand-shredding beats, carrots, cabbage, dicing onions and potatoes, wrestling the cast iron fry pans and cast Dutch Oven; all on the three measly square feet of pink granite counter in my tiny kitchen self-designed and built after thirty years of sailing on Eggemoggin Reach; and then just before bringing it out to a sixteen-foot harvest table a probably seventy-year flashback of my father large-spoon exploration of a large pot of his favorite borscht my mother had prepared for us all.

    You got it, Josh. All the elements. Plus, a reviewer’s ability to suspend just enough disbelief to let the film do its thing. Thanks.

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