Film Review | Chemical Hearts (2020)

chemical hearts lili reinhart austin abrams richard tanne amazon prime kirsty sutherland

There’s a recurring motif across Chemical Hearts, framing emotions as biological functions and chemical processes, breaking them down into hormones and endorphins and not a lot more. The almost-medical dialogue sits awkwardly in the film, the occasional references seemingly only included to justify the title, but even if the idea had been engaged with more deeply it’s not a framing device I’m especially fond of. Applying a scientific sheen to heartbreak and loss, romance and affection, joy and grief doesn’t render those experiences any more profound – it just makes them distant. Chemical Hearts is never cold, exactly, but it certainly doesn’t offer the intensity of feeling it promises in its opening lines: its characters are observed at some remove, never quite brought to life by a script more interested how they’re able to feel than what they feel.

That sense that characters are observed rather than engaged with isn’t, however, entirely a result of awkward dialogue: it’s baked into the film on a conceptual level. Chemical Hearts is yet another story that centres a white male ‘everyman’ type, positioning him as the lens to distantly approach a young woman’s trauma. If it feels familiar, that’s because it is. Chemical Hearts adapts the novel Our Chemical Hearts, part of a recent wave of Young Adult fiction that borders on the voyeuristic, where the specific tragedy their teenage protagonists have suffered is largely immaterial to the plot beats that follow. It’s not that there isn’t space for a sensitive, thoughtful film about a teenager rebuilding their life after trauma – or, indeed, about someone on the periphery of that – but Chemical Hearts isn’t that film. To its credit, it’s never as exploitative as the worst of its genre can be, and there are moments of relative quiet and maturity whereChemical Hearts distinguishes itself from those it most closely resembles, but ultimately they’re just that: moments.

Wrote about the new Lili Reinhart film, which is out on Amazon Prime today. She’s very good in it – much like she’s very good in Riverdale, albeit getting the chance to demonstrate some different skills here – but the rest of the film around her is a little lacking. Or at least I found it lacking, anyway; I did get the sense watching it that it would probably find a small-but-enthusiastic group of devotees along the way.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Film Index

Riverdale Season 2 Finale: All the questions we have ahead of Season 3

riverdale season 3 brave new world labor day questions need to know kj apa camila mendes archie andrews veronica lodge serpents cherly blossom

And so Riverdale Season 2 has concluded. It wasn’t with a bang, nor with a whimper, but rather, something that’s a little bit in between.

This deliberately understated final episode didn’t quite deliver all the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from Riverdale, nor the explosive cliffhangers of Season 1, but there’s more than enough to set up next year’s third season.

Here, then, are five questions we have after watching the Riverdale Season 2 finale, Brave New World.

My final Riverdale article of the season! Quite possibly my final Riverdale article (of this type) full stop, actually – I’ve got no idea if this ongoing, week-to-week coverage is something I’ll be continuing at Metro for Season 3.

Hopefully, it will (I say, months after I’ve actually finished it, when the week to week stresses are a faint memory), because I do like the show, but if not, that’s not the end of the world: I’m sure I’ll have some other Riverdale, and maybe Sabrina, content at some point anyway.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale season 2: Five questions we have after episode 17

riverdale season 2 the noose tightens cheryl blossom sisters of quiet mercy madelaine petsch

This week’s episode of Riverdale was another twisting and turning instalment of the quirky teen drama that gives us a lot to ponder.

We saw the Blossoms at each other’s’ throats, the Coopers’ crime come to light, and Archie seemingly enlisting his friends as mob enforcers – it’s an intense time to live in Riverdale.

Here’s my piece on the seventeenth episode of Riverdale season 2, The Noose Tightens, which was the last one for a couple of weeks.

It was a nice reprieve, to be honest – the weekly Riverdale article was becoming increasingly frustrating. I’m basically fond of the show, but it was going through a rough patch, and these “five questions we have after” articles are not the most mentally stimulating to write. (Which isn’t a knock on the format, incidentally; I think a big part of why I struggled with them is because I didn’t know how to write them well. Listicle type things are a skill unto themselves, I reckon.)

Anyway! Hope you enjoy this piece.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after episode 15

riverdale season 2 there will be blood archie andrews kj apa fred andrews luke perry hiram lodge mark consuelos

This week’s episode of Riverdale was a pretty momentous one, with some big revelations that’ll change the course of the show – we now know just what Hiram Lodge is up to, and what his plans are for the town. But where we go from here is anyone’s guess – and that leaves us with a lot of questions. 

Just who is Chic? What does Claudius’ return mean? Will Archie ever be the same again? Here are five questions we need answered after episode 15, There Will Be Blood.

Questions about Riverdale!

I feel like I need to make some sort of comment on each of these posts, vis a vis Riverdale, my thoughts on it, and my relationship with it. I suspect, admittedly, I do not have 22 different such thoughts for each of the episodic posts I’ve written about Riverdale.

But, you know, if you want to ask me questions about the show or anything, feel free to get in touch?

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale Season 2: Five things we need to know after The Hills Have Eyes, which was a particularly odd episode

riverdale season 2 the hills have eyes lili reinhart cole sprouse betty cooper jughead jones bughead

After a few weeks off because of the Olympics, we’re back to the town with pep. In this episode of the quirky teen drama, the gang went on holiday, Cheryl had an emotional moment, and there was a lengthy advert for showrunner Greg Berlanti’s new film Love, Simon

As ever, we’ve got a lot of questions after this week’s episode of Riverdale – is Betty in danger because of Chic? What is Hiram Lodge doing? Will Riverdale ever be the same again? Here’s everything we need to know about The Hills Have Eyes, the 14th episode of Riverdale’s second season.

At this point, these are mostly just exercises in snark. Which is fun, I guess.

Also, my gosh, wasn’t the Love, Simon advert in this one ridiculous? Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty pro Love, Simon – I’ve not seen it, but I enjoyed the book a lot, and it seems like a fun and important movie for all the obvious reasons. But, oh man, the product placement here was insane. I’m not sure if I’m affronted or impressed by the way they took it and made it pivotal to Cheryl’s character development.

Of course, this is also the one where they went to a cabin in the woods for a weird sex holiday, which apparently is going to be pivotal to the season 3 plot, so maybe the Love, Simon advert isn’t the most important thing. It’s an odd show, is Riverdale.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale Season 2: Will these kids ever get therapy?

riverdale season 2 the tell tale heart lili reinhart betty cooper madelaine petsch cheryl blossom netflix review

All of these kids – who are, don’t forget, all meant to be around 15 or 16-years-old – are dealing with stuff that’s way beyond their years. Mob hits, biker gangs, drugs, murder, and prostitution; they’re not exactly having an easy time of it. 

You can see it’s already starting to have an effect on Betty, who’s disassociating and self-harming in minor ways. Aiding and abetting a murder likely won’t help, but some therapy probably would.

Another five questions we have after, but one that got a little bit snarky, as they tended to from time to time. The above was one of the things that increasingly started to bother me across the course of the series – the fact that they’re all meant to be fifteen or sixteen ish was really offputting, considering everything they go through. It’s just strange to think about.

For the third series, I’d be pretty interested to see Riverdale slow down for a moment, and maybe have the characters going to therapy, just to address some of the awful things that have been happening to them. It’s perhaps a little much to expect from the show, but it’d be a step worth making if they did.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after episode 11, which has the worst ending of any episode of Riverdale ever, seriously, I’m not kidding, it was staggering

riverdale season 2 the wrestler archie andrews kj apa hiram lodge betty cooper lili reinhart webcam chic cooper dark betty hart denton gregg akira Greg Murray Devon Turner

This week’s episode of Riverdale was an engaging, if particularly strange one. It was full of the unconventional teen drama’s usual quirks, twists and turns. We saw the fallout of the return of Chic Cooper, the next stage of the conflict between Archie Andrews and Hiram Lodge, and an ending that will undoubtedly have a lot of repercussions across the rest of the series.

See, right now, I’m updating all the old posts for the new wordpress site, and I’m doing it in reverse chronological order, which is sort of creating the false impression that I initially had quite creative titles for Riverdale articles before giving up, as opposed to the reality that is me just becoming increasingly done with it all, just going backwards.

Anyway. The funny thing about that little excerpt is that the ending didn’t have a lot of repercussions across the rest of the series. Outside a brief scene at the top of the next episode, it was pretty much entirely ignored – for the best, frankly, because an ongoing plotline that could be described as sexual abuse of a minor isn’t really something this show can deal with. (As evidenced by the last ongoing plotline they had about the sexual abuse of a minor, which was pretty disastrous.)

But, yes, the ending of The Wrestler was pretty staggeringly bad, with Chic initiating Betty into the world of webcam sex shows. Just… no! No! Honestly. Just such a misstep on every level, and I can’t believe it got to the point where it was scripted, let alone shot.

(The most annoying thing is that, since you know Riverdale is going to continue until at least like 2024 or something, when they get to series four or five or so and start running out of ideas, they will go back to this and do an episode about someone blackmailing Betty. Just, honestly, god above. Do not. What a bad idea. Aaaargh.)

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index

Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after House of the Devil, like do the writers even know what the male gaze is?

riverdale season 2 house of the devil mad world cole sprouse lili reinhart serpent dance madelaine petsch ashleigh murray betty cooper dance male gaze

So, this episode sees a lot of the cast, quite literally – Veronica topless at the start, a pretty superfluous scene where Cheryl and Josie have just got out of a shower (one of their only two scenes in the episode), and even managed to contrive a pole dancing sequence where Betty strips down.

They keep name-checking ideas like misogyny and sexism – Cheryl calls out the male gaze while clearly subject of it – but that doesn’t really account for much when you’ve got these over the top sequences for no particular reason at all.

This one, actually, I very nearly span off into its own article: “Just because Riverdale mentions the male gaze, doesn’t mean it’s free from it.” Or something like that. I never did, in the end, because… well, a couple of different reasons, I guess. In part because I’m generally less confident in my knowledge of camera techniques and stuff, so I didn’t want to go immediately into a big polemic about something I didn’t quite understand; thing is, though, the shelf life on articles about any one episode of Riverdale is short, so the content cycle moved on quickly.

Anyway, this episode contained the most egregious examples of Riverdale finding reasons to get the cast to take their clothes off, which was made all the more ironic by the fact that this was the one that actually namechecked the male gaze! Totes, as the kids would say, ridic. (That’s not “as the kids say”, kids don’t say totes ridic anymore, but I say it constantly.)

So, yeah, I think there’s a bit of criticism to be issued there. I wouldn’t be surprised, perhaps, if that male gaze comment was an attempt to lampshade things, or someone critiquing the rest of the episode from within it. Thankfully, Riverdale toned things down a bit going forward – as above, this episode (and the one immediately prior, if I recall correctly) was the most egregious example of such. But if ever it comes up again, I’ll be sure to revive this article. In the meantime, I’ll go and read about the male gaze and the female gaze and such.

(This is still a five questions we have after piece, incidentally; other questions include speculation about FP Jones, the Black Hood, and whether or not Veronica is pregnant, because there was a weird line of dialogue that seemed to imply it, and honestly you know the show is gonna have a pregnancy plotline by the end of season 3 anyway.)

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Riverdale Index