Before we begin, take a deep breath… Cassie Salazar (Sofia Carson) is a bartender and aspiring rock star who can barely afford her diabetes medicine. Luke Morrow (Nicholas Galitzine) is a marine and recovering drug addict who still owes $15,000 to his dodgy dealer. When they meet one night at Cassie’s bar, they don’t exactly hit it off. She dismisses him as just another boorish military bro; he misreads her as a privileged rich girl who pretends to care about issues without understanding how the world really works. It’s mutual contempt at first sight.
Cassie and Luke might not like one other, but they realise they can help each other out. If they enter into a sham marriage before Luke’s upcoming tour of Iraq, Cassie will be entitled to a military wife’s enviable health insurance, thereby solving her financial problems. They’ll also receive a host of married couple’s benefits that will help him to clear his debt. Sure, what they’re doing is illegal as well as morally dubious, but if they can live the lie for the duration of Luke’s military tour, they’ll each be in a much better position. It’s a little wild, but doable, right?
Based on a 2017 novel by Tess Wakefield, Purple Hearts unfolds pretty much exactly as you expect it to. When Luke is injured in combat, he has to return early to their Southern California hometown, forcing the fake couple to live together without arousing suspicion from his hard-ass dad (Mortal Kombat‘s Linden Ashby). At the same time, Cassie’s music career is taking off improbably fast. After writing a couple of decent songs (which Carson actually co-wrote with Lady Gaga collaborator Justin Tranter), her band goes from playing a local dive bar to iconic LA venue Whisky a Go Go. Straight after that, they’re booked to open for Florence + The Machine at the Hollywood Bowl, though needless to say there’s no Florence Welch cameo here.
Purple Hearts is crushingly predictable and never quite rings true, but it’s not completely hopeless. The script occasionally delves a little deeper than it needs to: there are a couple of well-observed moments when Cassie calls out the casual racism of a drugstore clerk and one of Luke’s obnoxious marine buddies. But everything about this film is a little too on-the-nose and obvious to become properly compelling. Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum tells us Cassie is a liberal “snowflake” – Luke’s word – by showing Black Lives Matter and Pride flags hanging from her balcony. Sadly, it’s the sort of competent but contrived content that Netflix often seems happy to settle for these days.
- Director: Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum
- Starring: Sofia Carson, Nicholas Galitzine, Chosen Jacobs
- Release date: July 29 (Netflix)