Review: Teenage melodrama 'Chemical Hearts' a toxic waste of talent
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Whether it’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” or “Five Feet Apart,” crippled teenage romance always sells. While most of them feel similar in their own ways, what makes these formulaic ventures stand-out, is if we believe the relationship at the center of the film. In the case of Richard Tanne’s well intentioned “Chemical Hearts,” Lil Reinhart (“Riverdale”) and Austin Abrams (“Brad’s Status”) are left to burdened the load, and though their presence is welcome, the generic screenplay and minimal chemistry throws off the entire balance of the picture.
Not for lack of trying, “Chemical Hearts'' begins with Henry Page (Abrams) who represents just about any high school senior: they’re ready to be done. Though he’s trying to leave behind one final mark as the Editor-In-Chief for the school newspaper, his life is shaken-up when a crush develops for Grace Town (Reinhart). Grace used to be a track star and dated the star quarterback on the football team before a horrible car accident killed him and left her permanently injured. Her detachment from the rest of the school newspaper attracts Henry to uncover more of her history, and that in turn leads down a hole of slimy teenage clichés that will appease Reinhart’s tween fan base.
It’s your classic tale of a broken girl desperately trying to find peace and alleviate herself of a troubled past. As you might expect, they’re some bumps in the road. Grace is confused if she’s capable of loving anyone again, and Henry is crazy about her, but is constantly stuck in the friend zone trying to claw his way in. The film has some deep and tender moments among the two, but too often is littered with cheap and borderline laughable dialogue to truly resonate.
“Why do you kiss me like that?”
“Like you love me”
“It’s the only way I know how”
There’s a fair share of nods to “Romeo and Juliet” and the film oft touches on serious subjects like suicide and depression, but ultimately “Chemical Hearts” can’t overcome the lack of charm that exists between Reinhart and Abrams. Remember the chemistry with Woodley and Elgort in “Stars?” There was a sense those two genuinely loved the other, and try as they might, Reinhart and Abrams don’t have it. There’s no spark. No fireworks. It’s just bland.
Then again, “Chemical Hearts” isn’t in the business of delivering happy endings, instead trying to focus on fractured souls rebuilding from the ground-up. Grace and Henry have their own demons to contend with, and both are at different points in their life. The audience can sense this, even if the characters cannot.
It all plays out as you might expect and lacks the warmth and passion that Tanne’s previous effort – “Southside With You” – possessed. Considering “Chemical Hearts” is heading to streaming, it should satisfy those young, impressionable, teenagers looking for a quick weepie.
CHEMICAL HEARTS premieres August 21st, 2020 on Amazon Prime Video.