Austin Abrams and Lili Reinhart prove they have superb acting skills that are buried underneath their past supporting film and TV roles, but this teenage drama on Amazon Prime doesn't stand out from the rest
The trailer tells (almost) all.
From the short collection of clips, "Chemical Hearts" seems like it'll be that teenage romance-drama in which both characters have their own obstacles. But despite their flawed life they find love in each other and question their existence in the universe along the way.
That is exactly what Amazon Prime's "Chemical Hearts" is. If a viewer is looking for that kind of movie, they're in the right place. Though a good effort to bring darker tones to the film than some high school romance-dramas, the film overdoses on cliché writing. And although the individual acting is fantastic, this film's leads lack that chemistry needed to root for the couple.
Chemical Hearts – Official Trailer | Prime Videowww.youtube.com
Henry Page (Austin Abrams from "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark") is your average brooding teenager yet a romantic at heart. Maybe it's because his parents are perfect high school sweethearts. He has a gift for writing, but he doesn't know how to say the right thing.
He's worked hard to become his high school's newspaper editor-in-chief. But one day he's called to the office with a transfer student named Grace Town (Lili Reinhart from "Riverdale"), and both students are named co-editor-in-chiefs.
Grace, who walks with a cane and wears oversized clothing, immediately refuses the offer. But Henry is left confused yet intrigued by the new girl who knows what to say but avoids writing.
Together the pair find passion in the school paper – yes, he convinces her to come back – and in each other, but a past accident leaves Grace's emotions in limbo.
Both Abrams and Reinhart do a wonderful job in this film as individuals. They've mostly played supporting roles in TV shows and films that don't do their talents justice. So it's refreshing to see both of them in the limelight as leads, especially when they hit the right notes in all their tender and emotional scenes.
However, they lack that spark, and that chemistry is so crucial for a teenage romance-drama otherwise it's hard to believe in them. Maybe if audiences saw more of the "fun" scenes that followed as their relationship grew, it would allow them to get to know the couple more. And maybe the writing was so cliché that it was hard to see any proof of chemistry.
When "Chemical Hearts" gets to the plot twist, it's actually quite dark and a little sad. But it would've been nice to flesh out how far some plot elements went for Grace before she met Henry. So it's commendable that director Richard Tanne worked with what he had in the script.
Even if there is an attempt at a darker storyline, this movie doesn't escape the high school existential dialogue. Want a metaphor for how a teenager's existence is like a star in the sky? It's here. Henry is also one of those guys who gives a monologue about his not-exciting life, and tropes like this are sometimes exhausting in movies like this.
Looking for a high school drama during the summer? Viewers will find it in "Chemical Hearts." But will they find something new? Definitely not.
"Chemical Hearts" premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, August 21, 2020.
Contact reporter Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia.