If you wanted to sum up the dim state of theatrical moviegoing, at least for this week, you could do it in one sentence: “No Time to Die” and “West Side Story” have been bumped to 2021, and “2 Hearts” is opening on 1,500 screens. What is “2 Hearts”? It’s a softheaded piece of morbid romantic treacle — two parallel cloying love stories for the price of one. But it all builds to them merging together, and the film tips its hand within 10 minutes that its spiritual linchpin will be a cataclysmic medical trauma. It takes no great deduction to look at these couples, put two and two together, and realize that what we’re watching is going to turn into a faith-based organ-transplant movie. “2 Hearts” is based on a true story, but what it’s selling is sanctimonious charity disaster porn. The big message is: Even the most devastating trauma is all part of God’s plan.
The couples’ stories are like competing Hallmark cards, but if you had to pick the most grating, it would be the coyly idyllic look-how-in-love-we-are! college romance between Chris (Jacob Elordi), a strapping freshman at Loyola, and Sam (Tiera Skovbye), the senior he falls for at first sight. Jacob Elordi, from the “Kissing Booth” films and “Euphoria,” is done no favors by being in this movie. As Chris, he’s so show-offy about his “sincerity” he turns it into a form of smarm.
He raises his eyebrows as if manipulating them by pulleys, staring with overly telegraphed puppy-dog sensitivity. And that voice! It practically growls with self-adoring preppie privilege; he’s like the world’s nicest frat-house douche. The movie features so much saccharine flirtatious fumbling that each shyly awkward pause and interrupted sentence sounds painfully scripted, and when Chris does his hey-I’m-not-trying-to-be-cool dance moves, it’s cringe-worthy enough to make you want to crawl under whatever piece of furniture you’re sitting on.
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As Chris and Sam drift through their impossibly perfect and self-satisfied YA courtship, the film keeps flashing back to the idealized but not quite as annoying romance between Jorge (Adan Canto), the wealthy Cuban-American scion of a family that owns a rum company (the character he’s based on is one of the Bacardis), and Leslie (Radha Mitchell), the stewardess — a term that’s used quite pointedly for its retro cachet — who he meets on a flight and starts jet-setting to places like Hawaii to woo.
These two, likewise, are all goo-goo-eyed bliss, except that Jorge hasn’t told her his secret — that he has a lung condition he could die from at any moment. (The doctor only gave him to the age of 20.) He’s got one of those tell-tale movie coughs, and for all the hoariness of that device the movie is so slipshod that there’s never a scene in which he full-on tells Leslie about his condition (which, given that she wants to have a ton of kids, she’d have a right to know about). We assume he’s hiding it, but then it turns out that she knows, which is a major dramatic glitch.
In this soap opera spangled with heavenly glitter, Radha Mitchell comes the closest to making her character into a down-to-earth human being. The film was directed and co-written by Lance Hool, who at one point plays a major trick on the audience, effectively turning the story into “It’s a Wonderful Life” in reverse. Then again, maybe one reason why “2 Hearts” feels so prefab is that Hool appears to have started with the ending and worked backward. The film comes on like a love story wholesome enough to appeal to people nostalgic for the Doris Day era, but it’s really a sermonette in movie form. It turns compassion into a flashing billboard and fits together way too neatly. It ends up saying that we’re all God’s puzzle pieces.