There will be naysayers who won’t buy writer/director Brett Haley’s bittersweet yet ultimately sentimental Hearts Beat Loud, but don’t be deterred. Open hearted to the core, and blessed with lived in performances from Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, Hearts Beat Loud is a total charmer.
Frank (Nick Offerman) owns a soon to be closed vinly shop in Brooklyn. A lifelong passion for music and going his own way has in the world of rising rents and streaming services, to this understandable end. His daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is headed West to UCLA for pre-med, and this may their last full summer of father and daughter bonding time.
Though loving as can be, Sam is nonetheless irritated by her dad’s Peter Pan behavior. While diligently studying one lazy evening, Sam eventually relents and joins her father for a late night jam session. Their latest collaboration yields a catchy song that Frank submits to Spotify. After hearing the track at his local bakery, Frank is determined to turn their family bonding time into a full fledged band, much to Sam’s displeasure.
Sasha Lane, who delivered an eye-opening debut performance in American Honey, is Sam’s supportive girlfriend Rose, and their new relationship is treated by Sam’s impending move to California. Though their screen time together is brief, Clemons and Lane light up the screen with their undeniable chemistry, and one hopes this pairing will be a shape of future collaborations to come. Both actors are magnetic beyond belief, and credit goes to Haley for spotting this natural bond.
Offerman has a deceptively complex role, as Frank is an unassuing, affable guy with a ton of love (and ultimately heartache) to spare. Though he has the capacity, due to his unpredictable nature, to steal a scene, Offerman infuses Frank with a ton of subtlety (letting, in effect, Clemons shine bright with a breakthrough performance). Toni Collette is Frank’s landlady and prospective love interest, with Ted Danson doing a Sam Malone callback as his local bartender.
Hearts Beat Loud’s ultimate success lies in the believability of Offerman and Clemons, and coupled with catchy music from Keegan DeWitt (the title track is infectious, caloric free pop), Hearts Beat Loud hits the right notes even during its more “seen there done that” feel good moments.
Detractors will criticize its seemingly sugar sweet tone, but permit me to throw in a little Beach Boys into the mix. Pet Sounds, a vinyl that hangs in Frank’s store, is the perfect analogy to the flick. Filled with blissful, hit-making tunes, Pet Sounds is also filled with a surprisingly dark undertone (check out the lyrics to Sloop John B and Caroline,No for reference). Hearts Beat Loud follows a similar path.
Haley also refuses to drench his tale in cinematic fantasy and wish fulfillment, and this dedication to reality makes a Brooklyn tale a highly worthy watch. Hearts Beat Loud reminds us that no matter where you’re from or where you’re headed, there’s still a ton of music left to be played.
Rating: 4 out 5