August 17th, 2020
MOVIE: CHEMICAL HEARTS
STARRING: LILI REINHART, AUSTIN ABRAMS, SARAH JONES, KARA YOUNG
DIRECTED BY: RICHARD TANNE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
When it comes to romantic movies, I like them to be lovey dovey. I like it when two people meet and fall in love and I don’t mind if there is a bit of heartbreak either. What I don’t like is when a romantic movie is insufferable, contrived, and downright depressing. Chemical Hearts is the latter. Director/writer Richard Tanne is working off of Krystal Sutherland’s novel, which I have not read, but I hope it’s better than its cinematic adaptation. Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams star as two brooding high school seniors, passionate about writing, and looking for comfort in one another. What divides them is a past tragedy, hanging over their love like a dark cloud, and constantly bumming out the audience in the process. Chemical Hearts is not the kind of romance movie that makes you fall in love again. Instead, it just might put you to sleep.
Henry (Abrams) and Grace (Reinhart) are alike. A bit lonely and in search of happiness at the start of a new school year. Henry hopes to be the editor of the school newspaper, loves poetry, and escapes to his room with a good book. There’s a new girl that has transferred named Grace. She walks with a limp and a cane, has a sad look on her face, and wants to keep to herself. When the English teacher makes Henry and Grace in charge of the paper, there’s a brief bond over a shared appreciation for literature, but getting close to Grace seems impossible for Henry. She was the victim of a gruesome car accident, leaving her permanently disabled, and the life lost of her boyfriend. The hope is for love to win over, but the majority of Chemical Hearts consists of Henry trying to convince Grace that he could be the one to bring back her happiness.
It’s a difficult task to even write about Chemical Hearts. There’s little about it that isn’t depressing. The cinematography is in a permanent state of gray, with dark clouds, and dim lit rooms. The story lacks joy. I’m a cynical person and I can see positivity in a story that has a more authentic view of the world. I just never cared for these characters. Henry is nice, but keeps distant; he’s unable to connect with his parents that have been in love from the start, and his sister (Sarah Jones) has relationship problems of her own. And then there’s Grace, played by Reinhart, who exudes a brightness with her face, and is forced to play a character suffering inside and out. Although I found the character to have depth, her inability to open up to Henry makes it even harder to invest in where the relationship will end.
On top of the film’s narrative problems, what’s more annoying is the casting of Abrams and Reinhart. I think the goal was to have two actors that look beautiful enough to want their lives, but both actors are twenty-five and could not be further from being high-school students. I don’t understand why casting directors continue to make mistakes like this. Last we saw Reinhart was as a constantly puking exotic dancer in Hustlers and Abrams may have been able to get away with his high school rolls, but he’s looking older every day.
There’s not much else to say about Chemical Hearts. It’s never bad enough to despise. The acting is solid and the production value is there. This is just a dire, genuinely miserable movie, where high school is filled with complicated emotions, and young love is never what it’s cracked up to be. I would say that Chemical Hearts has a bad case of heart burn.
CHEMICAL HEARTS PREMIERES ON AMAZON PRIME THIS WEEKEND
Written by: Leo Brady