Hearts Beat Loud (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Not to put too fine a point on it. I love this movie. Nearly everything about it. I want you all to see it.
Nick Offerman is terrific as a single dad at the crossroads of middle age, while Kiersey Clemons shines as his daughter, wrestling with decisions that could impact her life forever.
Keegan DeWitt’s trio of songs are catchy, move the story forward, and add a layer of emotional depth to the overall story that makes this something truly special.
You simply go out of your way to avoid nice things. Also, if you’ve ever been called a curmudgeon, probably best to avoid this.
You are adverse to smiling.
Representation matters. If that statement bothers you in any way, shape, or form, check your privilege and wake up. It is 2018. As you wonder where we all went wrong, the rest of us will be enjoying a wonderful little movie that wants to bring us all together and not continue to tear us all apart.
Invariably, every year I tend to find a handful of crowd-pleasing, smaller movies that I just want to take possession of, arrange a group of friends, watch the movie with them, and just hope they fall in love with it as much as I have. And so here we have Hearts Beat Loud…the latest film I just want the whole wide world to see and experience.
I am not quite sure when or where writer/director Brett Haley’s fourth feature won me over. Perhaps it comes when widowed single father Frank (Nick Offerman) tries to convince his pre-med school daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) to drop her studies and join him for their weekly “jam sesh.”
Maybe it won my heart when father and daughter surprise themselves by collaborating on an original song that eventually gets uploaded to Spotify and inexplicably gets added to a new indie music playlist.
I might love the atmosphere of the film, where Frank’s scarcely attended vinyl record store looks, feels, and resembles like so many great record stores I have frequented in the past. You can almost smell the dust and hear the needle drop in every scene. Maybe it’s the extended cameo from a spirited Ted Danson as a pot-smoking bartender, or Sam’s romance with Rose (Sasha Lane), which is one of the most bittersweet and believable young romances I have seen on screen in quite some time.
Somewhere Haley, and his screenwriting partner Marc Basch, found gold and platinum in their story of Frank being catapulted into the crossroads of not knowing what to do with his record store, his daughter’s departure from New Jersey to California for school, and the potential new feelings emerging for his landlord and friend Leslie (Toni Collette).
Offerman is fantastic in a role Haley wrote specifically with the veteran character actor in mind. In what may very well be the 48-year-old actor’s first official turn as a leading man, Offerman slides perfectly into Frank’s skin, carrying the still lingering pain of losing his wife over a decade prior, and wondering if the inexplicable studio magic he created with his daughter could generate a second lease on life, when it comes to pursuing a career in rock-and-roll.
Clemons is equally wonderful, not only in crafting a character who often must try and be the occasional parent to her father. She also becomes completely knocked off-balance when she meets Rose, an unexpected new girlfriend in her life, potentially arriving at the worst possible time. Lane and Clemons are terrific together, with Haley and Basch giving them depth, importance, and significance within the larger story being told.
Hearts Beat Loud is charming, thoughtful, and an honest exploration of how relationships impact us, time can never be slowed down, and, by accepting the challenges life throws our way, we become stronger, even when those challenges can sometimes seem to be conspiring to break us down.
Like a perfectly pitched pop song, the movie may hit some predictable beats, Plus, a subplot involving Frank’s mother (Blythe Danner) seems to spin its wheels in the grand scheme of things. Yet, in every other way, when a film is this dialed in with its characters, as well-acted and consistently well-written as this one is, the verse-chorus-verse structure of the film still feels plausible, real, and keeps us emotionally invested.
Haley also gets a boost in his storytelling by the trio of catchy, smart, and emotionally rich songs composed by singer/songwriter Keegan DeWitt. The lyrics are never heavy-handed, and effectively move the narrative forward, culminating in a 10-minute sequence at the record store where father and daughter finally find their collective voice and accept that the new journeys they are taking will re-define what it means to live together and apart from one another.
Hearts Beat Loud has the danger of being snuffed out by the giants of the summer movie season. As it exists, distributor Gunpowder & Sky is slowly shifting the film from the festival circuit to a few cities week by week. Don’t wait for me to gather you together and show you Hearts Beat Loud. Jot this down, look for it, and go enjoy a terrific, heartwarming, and engaging film that will have its music stuck in your head and heart for a long, long time to come.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner.
Director: Brett Haley
Written by: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Release Date: June 8, 2018
Gunpowder & Sky