Saturday, August 8, 2020

Emerson Heights: Movie Review

Hallmark-style romance, bad acting, awful message.

Emerson Heights is pure teen romance. It just screams Hallmark, but apparently it’s not. That was my first mistake, thinking if another distributor (Amazon) picked this up, surely there’s something else to this. It can’t just be a soapy, totally unrealistic tale of star-crossed lovers (at the ripe old age of 17) with really bad acting, can it? Yes, it can.   2020

Directed by: Jennifer Hook

Screenplay by: Wendi Foy Green, Austin James

Starring: Austin James, Gatlin Kate James

If you’re still reading, perhaps you’re still planning on watching (seriously, go for it, no judgement here) so I might as well start with the positives. The main thing Emerson Heights has going for it is Austin James. He is really good looking and has crazy good screen presence. I watched the entire movie, even when I figured out it was never going to get better, because Austin James makes you want to watch him. He plays Cody McClain a young actor about to break-through as a mega Hollywood star. Is he playing a future version of himself? Probably. At least to a degree, he won’t be the next DiCaprio, but he should be a known name to young adult audiences everywhere.

His acting isn’t flawless. He struggles at various times to make the dialogue and actions seem natural, but he’s also the best actor the movie has. His co-lead is Gatlin Kate James (relation = spouse). Her young, romantic Briley is all over the place. She’s sometimes flighty, sometimes overly serious, and too many times cringe-inducing. The key to hiring not good actors is to surround them with worse actors. Let’s just say the supporting characters are not good at all.

The hook to Emerson Heights is the parallel story going on. While Cody and Briley are meeting each other, falling in love and flying all over the country trying to stay together, we are introduced to a young girl (some indiscriminate number of years in the future) who’s reading the love letters between Cody and Briley. Younger viewers will likely be drawn to the twist and the mystery surrounding it and it can be seen as a cute diversion. More experienced viewers will know what’s coming.

What’s coming is an awful pro-life, pro-teen parenting message. I watched 10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up earlier this year, which also had a pro-life message which I despised. At least that movie presented its protagonist as being pro-life and then proceeded with that message. Here, the writers are so scared of pro-choice that they couldn’t even say the word “abortion”. The script did summersaults trying to get around saying that word which just makes its pro-teen parenting stance even worse.

Emerson Heights is the type of movie you know you shouldn’t watch, but then sometimes you do, and then you accidentally watch the whole thing, and then it’s over and you’re just not sure who to blame.