Do opposites attract?

Netflix's romantic drama Purple Hearts is predictable but worth the watch for its musical subplot

Sofia Carson as Cassie fronting her band. (Photos courtesy of Netflix)

Even though two people have different ideologies, they can still get along, right? Sure, but if getting along means falling in love with someone whose beliefs and values are completely different from yours, well then, let's just say that that only happens in movies like Purple Hearts, the latest Netflix drama that provides a spin on marriage fraud between a troubled young US marine and a struggling singer-songwriter who dreams of her big break.

For Cassie Salazar (Sofia Carson), music is everything. She is determined to make it with her band and see the world beyond her hometown of Oceanside, California. But life's struggles keep getting in the way. While Cassie's day job at the local dive bar once kept her afloat, her debt becomes insurmountable after she receives an unexpected diabetes diagnosis. One night on her shift, Cassie meets Luke Morrow (Nicholas Galitzine), who visits the bar for drinks with fellow US marines before they deploy. The two never hit it off as their flirtatious introduction ends in a war of words. But all is not lost from their chance encounter as Cassie learns that marine spouses get full health benefits and extra pay, and because each of them is dealing with some financial hardship, a plan to take advantage of military benefits may be the perfect temporary solution for both. This results in the pair trying to maintain their fraudulent image as a happily married couple, with the possibility of real love blossoming in the process.

This is an incredibly predictable romantic drama and cliche in presentation from start to finish. The characters are set up to maximise tension and conflict. Former Disney star Sofia Carson plays the role of a struggling starving artist but manages to tap into that need to create and follow her dreams. It took me a while to get used to her uptight personality, but I eventually did sympathise with her circumstances as she has to deal with rent and paying for medication just to stay alive. Galitzine was a bit more bland by comparison as his character Luke is disciplined in the way one would expect from an almost stereotypical American soldier -- conservative, arrogant and angry. Luke has a dark side that contrasts with this clean image, which makes them more interesting as a result. His broken relationship with his family also makes it a bit easier to empathise with him.

Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine in Purple Hearts. 

As the story revolves around Cassie pursuing her musical career, we get a decent amount of singing from Carson who wrote original tunes for this film. So, for the amount of singing we get in this, it begins to feel that we're watching an anthology of music videos. While I'm personally not a fan of her dramatic pop ballads or her whining singing style, the musical aspect of this movie should hit the right notes for some.

It's not certain if the information about the marines is 100% accurate, but the audience may be surprised by how the legalities and mechanisms work, or at least the depiction of them. Unlike other military movies, Purple Hearts is not about showing you wars or battles. You won't get to see or hear a single gunshot or any explosion despite Luke being on a mission in Iraq. The movie rather maintains its focus on the scam and its possible consequences on their relationship.

The film also has a political undertone to create a difference between the two main characters. Cassie is a bleeding liberal and not a fan of the government, whereas Luke is a by-the-book patriot. So we get to see some dialogue that felt a bit too forced, especially from the beginning when the two kept tossing insults back and forth as she calls him a commando, while he calls her a libtard. They do come across as a bit cringy and we watch this play out in very expected ways, and because both characters share only the most extreme points of view with little in the way of grey area, the drama feels manufactured and pointless.

Ultimately, the story in Purple Hearts plays out pretty much exactly as one might expect. The characters don't get along at first, but then they gradually fall in love in the end. It's not exactly the most inspiring romance I've seen as most of what happens in the story can easily be seen coming, which is kind of disappointing, but it's somewhat saved by the performances of its characters and the musical subplot.

  • Purple Hearts
  • Starring Sofia Carson, Nicholas Galitzine, Chosen Jacobs
  • Directed by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum
  • Now streaming on Netflix


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