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Spoilers: What Is the Appeal of the Massively Popular Netflix Film 'Purple Hearts'?

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 25, 2022 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 25, 2022 |


The thing about Netflix is that they don’t need to spend $200 million to make a streaming blockbuster. They do not need to hire Martin Scorsese or the Russo Brothers to direct. They do not need to cast Chris Hemsworth or Ryan Reynolds, The Rock, Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, or Sandra Bullock in their movies to succeed. They don’t even have to come up with a decent script; any generic, second-rate Nicholas Spark’s pablum will do.

To wit: Purple Hearts is the seventh most popular Netflix movie ever, surpassing Scorsese’s The Irishman and Sandra Bullock’s The Unforgivable. Purple Hearts is directed by veteran television director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum, its biggest star is Sofia Carson (of Disney’s Descendants fame), and the script is complete crap.

It’s something of a mystery to me as to why the film has been in the Netflix top 10 movies since it premiered a month ago. It probably cost fifty cents and some belly button lint to make. It’s not a good film. It’s not even up to Netflix’s usual standards of algorithm-generated mediocrity. It’s horrendously written and poorly acted, and the production values look like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting that’s been run over by a train.

What exactly is the appeal? It might be Sofia Carson, because I do understand that The Descendants was a huge Disney hit. But Carson starred in another Netflix film, Feel the Beat, that didn’t catch fire the way Purple Hearts has. I don’t think it’s the love interest — Nicholas Galitzine — bringing all the viewers, either. He’s best known as Prince Robert, the fourth lead in the forgotten Prime Video Cinderella with Camila Cabello. And it sure as hell isn’t because it’s a good movie, because it is not.

The best I can tell is the appeal is the hamfisted, overwritten Red State/Blue State storyline. In Purple Hearts, Carson plays Cassie, a waitress, aspiring musician, diabetic, and social justice warrior. She’s poor, has terrible insurance, and can’t afford her insulin. She meets Luke (Galitzine) at the bar where she works when one of Luke’s Marine buddies makes a sexist pass at her. Luke tries to smooth it over but proves only slightly less sexist than his buddy.

Cassie and Luke decidedly do not like each other. However, because of his past addiction, Luke is in debt to his drug dealer and is desperate to pay him off before something bad happens. Cassie needs better insurance to cover her insulin. So they begrudgingly agree to get sham married for the insurance, benefits, and extra pay. They have to fake it, but in faking it, they predictably fall in love, but not without arguing over politics. He uses “liberal” as a swear word, and she gets enraged because Luke and his friends can’t wait to get back to Iraq to “shoot some Arabs.” “YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SACRIFICES THESE PEOPLE MAKE FOR OUR COUNTRY.” Cassie’s music career, meanwhile, is starting to take off because she’s writing songs inspired by Luke. The conflict, of course, is that Luke and Cassie are trying to keep hidden that their marriage is a sham so that Luke can avoid a court martial.

This movie is not subtle.

Spoiler Alert: The truth comes out, and Luke — who was hurt in an explosion in Iraq that killed Cassie’s best friend — is discharged from the service and sentenced to six months in prison. Spoiler Alert #2: It doesn’t matter, because by the time he’s sent to jail, the marriage is real because they’ve fallen in love.

The movie feels like it was written by a Breitbart intern who has a crush on a Starbucks barista with dyed black hair and black lipstick, and all of Cassie’s lines seem like they were based on some 60-year-old Trump conservative’s idea of a “woke” Gen Z’er. Luke, meanwhile, is depicted more sympathetically basically because he’s not as bad as Steve Bannon. It seems to rest on some sort of weird fantasy about a liberal woman being saved by a hump hump Marine with pouty lips and a troubled past.

Viewers apparently love it. I cannot begin to understand why. I have seen some lousy Netflix movies, but this one is unwatchable. Lifetime executives would scoff dismissively at this movie, which is about as interesting as an infected hangnail. What I simply don’t understand, however, is if Netflix can generate this many millions of viewing hours for movies like Purple Hearts, the more charming but also cheap Kissing Booth or All the Boys, why do they continue to spend so many hundreds of millions of dollars on mediocre action films that don’t perform any better?