Saturday, October 24, 2020

2 Hearts: A Review (Review #1424)


2 Hearts is being sold as a lush, romantic drama with two interconnected stories that span generations. They are interconnected, though it takes a long time to have them connect. That connection, however, along with a bizarre framing, gives it an almost ghoulish feel that makes 2 Hearts come across as almost farcical, which does this true-life story wrong.

Mostly narrated in voiceover by Chris Gregory (Jacob Elordi), we get both his story and that of Jorge/George Bolivar (Adan Canto). For most of 2 Hearts, it seems like they are parallel stories.

Jorge, the scion of a Cuban rum empire family, has a condition that eventually requires him to have part of his lung removed. He defies the odds again and again, living past 20 to 30 and beyond, when he encounters beautiful Pan Am stewardess Leslie (Radha Mitchell). They eventually marry but are unable to have children. Despite this, they remain very much in love until Jorge's conditions deteriorates to where unless he gets a lung transplant he will die.

Into the future, happy-go-lucky Chris is also a bit lackadaisical towards college until he meets the love of his life, Sam (Tiera Skovbye). She's a bit more sensible than our wisecracking, slightly doofus Chris but not bright enough to figure out he's totally into her, down to making the enormous sacrifice of getting his driver's license just so he could drive in the Safety Buddies program she heads. 

Here's where things get tricky. As Chris has been narrating both stories, usually with quips, he has a sudden health emergency. It appears that he does recover, continuing his narration and finding that, unlike the Bolivars, he and Sam do marry and have a child, Sam's love maturing him into a responsible, loving father and successful ETM.

Then Chris tells us that's not what happened. In reality, Chris dies suddenly at 19, and somewhat reluctantly his parents allow his organs to be given to those waiting for transplants, saving five lives including Jorge. Eventually the families meet, form a bond and the Bolivars create "Gabriel's House of Care" as a place where families of transplant recipients/donors can shelter through the health crisis.

Organ donation is a very important issue, and the work that the Bacardi family has done with Gabriel's House of Care is worthy of recognition. 2 Hearts, based on Chris' father Eric's memoir All My Tomorrows, decided however to focus on their disparate love stories,all but making their significant contribution almost an afterthought; there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sight of organ recipient families in the hospital lobby and what should be the spark of inspiration instead ends up being treated as a blip.

Director Lance Hool and co-screenwriters Robin U. Russin and Veronica Hool (there are many Hools behind 2 Hearts in writing, directing, producing and casting) made perhaps the most ghastly decision with the voiceover. Apart from being a bane of my existence, Chris' voiceovers start out as merely grating and end up almost obscene. I don't know why apparently they looked on Sunset Boulevard as inspiration for having our story narrated by a dead man. Worse, as voiced by Elordi, Chris comes across not as a rambunctious, fun fellow but as an idiot.

I'm not alone in this: at one point one of his friends asks him, "Why are you such an idiot?".

Perhaps the ugliest element is the entire post-coma segment. I don't know what the film was aiming for (perhaps a big, "shocking" twist) but given the whole thing was a fake-out, it struck me personally as almost ghoulish and manipulative to give us this fantasy when perhaps sticking to the truth would have done 2 Hearts better.

In terms of performances I was less than impressed. Despite being based on a true story the characters came across as fictional: not once did they go beyond stereotypes (gruff fathers, loyal females). Elordi's chief contribution was his physical beauty, for his Chris was sadly nowhere near interesting. Canto's Jorge was maybe older but still quite buff for someone who apparently could drop dead any moment. I mention this because 2 Hearts does give our males many opportunities to showcase their well-built torsos for reasons known only to them.

Acting-wise, the four leads looked almost bored (Canto and Mitchell) and/or sitcom-like (Elordi and Skovbye). You don't believe they were or are real, a terrible disservice to their real-life counterparts. Elordi and Skovbye especially suffered: no matter how hard they tried to sell the Chris/Sam romance they either are not skilled enough or were badly directed to make Chris and Sam come across as irritatingly "wacky" and forced "perky" respectively. 

Sometimes the film is almost comical, such as with Chris' brother John (Anthony Konechny). He has exactly one major scene where he objects to his brother's organs being donated, and 2 Hearts has apparently such little interest in John that at least once I did ask 'Who is this?' when he appeared. I think it's a fair complaint given Chris had more interaction with his fellow Loyola student/brother Colin (Jordan Burtchett). Sadly, that made John the "Chuck Cunningham" of 2 Hearts

I can't deny that 2 Hearts had an effect on viewers: I heard sniffles in the small audience the film had due to the pandemic. The audience didn't mind that 2 Hearts bounced back and forth between the 1960s and 2000s with almost reckless abandon. They didn't mind that 2 Hearts is a bit misleading: given the subject matter, it was the lungs not perhaps the expected heart that Jorge got. As a side note, I think Eric Gregory's original title All My Tomorrows actually works better than 2 Hearts, but that's just my view. 

The true story of Chris Gregory and Jorge Bacardi (changed to Bolivar in the film) is one worthy of knowing. The subjects of life, death, how both can appear and disappear quickly to young and old, as well as the importance of organ donation are important ones. 2 Hearts, however, felt it was more important to focus on a couple of bland "romances" where at least I grew to dislike Chris. Given the good he did in life and death, it's a bad way to offer tribute.


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