We regret to inform you that it is really good
When I first saw the Netflix trailer purple hearts, I probably, like many of you, rolled my eyes. A love story about a bogus military wedding for benefits? Leave me alone.
I almost wanted to hate it, because it seemed too easy. But I’m here to report that after watching it myself, it’s okay. As in, make-me-rip-by-the-end good.
The story centers on Lance Cpl. Luke Morrow, a recovering drug addict who joined the Marines to prove himself to his father, and Cassie Salazar, a struggling singer/songwriter with type 1 diabetes. Morrow, played by Nicholas Galitzine, prepares to deploy in Iraq but has a heavy debt to his former drug dealer to repay. And Salazar, played by Sofia Carson, has run out of money to get the insulin she desperately needs to ‘literally survive’, she says in exasperation as she and Morrow work out the details of their arrangement in a booth of restoration.
This article contains minor spoilers from purple heartswhich was released on Netflix on July 29.
Almost from the start, the two are at odds. She’s a feminist who gave up service members as she later reveals her mother had a “chain of grassroots boyfriends”. Moments after meeting her, Morrow confidently calls her “predictable” and someone who tweets “a lot about other people’s rights” but doesn’t “want to do anything” because “guns are mean”. He’s a Republican, she’s a Democrat. She loves hot sauce on breakfast tacos, he hates it. She wants an iguana as a pet, he absolutely does not.
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In the first 10 minutes of the film, one of Salazar’s friends says that a sailor joked with her that she should marry him for health care.
“Do you see the guy who looks 12 years old?” asks Nora, another member of the band played by Kat Cunning who works at the bar with Salazar. “He told me I should reconsider my stance on men because if I married him I would get amazing health insurance.”
“Wow, health insurance,” Salazar said sarcastically. “That’s some dirty language right there.”
purple hearts, which was filmed at Camp Pendleton, is as clear an example as you’ll find of the classic enemies-lovers trope. And while the movie isn’t short on stereotypes — sexist Marines, unruly corporals, stubborn feminists who’ve been burned once too many times — it’s heartfelt and genuinely enjoyable. Galitzine and Carson have undeniable on-screen chemistry, and while cheesy at times, the storyline is certainly enjoyable enough to keep you entertained.
Shortly after they first meet, the idea of a marriage-for-hire becomes more realistic as Salazar realizes she no longer has any options for getting her insulin. She first approaches a childhood friend, Frankie, played by Chosen Jacobs, about the idea of a fake marriage; the idea is gently dismissed as Frankie says he’s getting serious with his girlfriend.
Come in tomorrow. While he initially berates the idea when he overhears Salazar talking with Frankie — his roommate, go figure — because his dad is a retired Navy deputy, he later changes his tune, as his former drug dealer comes to claim the $15,000 that Morrow owes him. Married troops get more money, he reasons. One thing leads to another, and soon Salazar and Morrow are married in a courthouse with Frankie as their only witness.
The night before Morrow and the rest of his unit leave – the same day the two supposed lovebirds got married – they fight in front of the other Marines and their loved ones. As the fight escalates, Morrow remembers what they are meant to achieve. He brings her closer and they pretend to make up while his buddies watch and make jokes from inside a restaurant.
Later that evening, the two have to share a motel room. Tradition, Morrow tells him, is that Marines and their lovers stay there the night before deployment. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s only one bed.
The whole story is an emotional tug of war. When they get closer, something happens to separate them. When one seems to fall, the other seems distant. But while the trailer appears to portray Salazar as “addicted,” a pejorative term typically used for military wives who do nothing while their serviceman works hard, it’s clear in the film that Morrow is just as dependent on his. Although they planned to divorce soon after Morrow returned from Iraq, tragedy struck and Morrow was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). Before they know it, their vows to care for each other “in sickness and in health” become more real than they ever imagined.
Considering my previous shots, it’s probably no surprise that I’m as into romantic drama as the next person. But when I started watching the movie with a critical eye for this article, I quickly found myself totally engrossed, my notes Google doc virtually empty as I watched the story unfold.
At the end of the day, purple hearts has something for everyone: a solidly entertaining story with great chemistry for my romance lovers, and an opportunity to poke fun at a military movie for people who, well, were always going to poke fun at it anyway way.
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