Here's a simple test for you before you consider watching Hearts Beat Loud. How do you feel about seeing Nick Offerman when he briefly breaks into an expression of pure joy? There are few things that cheer me up more, he becomes a child (sometimes the expression is accompanied by giggling, sometimes it isn't). There are at least two occasions in this movie which show Offerman as happy as he can be, and those two moments alone make the film worth your time. Thankfully, there's also a lot more to enjoy here.
Offerman plays Frank Fisher, the fairly grumpy owner of a record store that is due to close soon. He's been running it for 17 years so he views it as a good run. Frank has a few people he enjoys spending time with, including his landlady (Leslie, played by Toni Collette), a friend who runs a local bar (Dave, played by Ted Danson), and his daughter (Sam, played by Kiersey Clemons). In fact, he and his daughter have a tradition of a weekly jam session that he knows he is going to miss when she heads off to university. And that makes it all the harder to let go when she comes up with a song that they tweak together. Frank uploads it to Spotify and is pleasantly surprised when it is noticed by indie music fans. He wants to use their recognition to do something more, while Sam wants to keep her head in the game, as it were, and just get used to the hard studying she has ahead of her.
Directed by Brett Haley, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Marc Basch, Hearts Beat Loud is such a sweet and beautiful little film that I keep being tempted to raise my rating for it even further. It does everything in a deceptively simple manner, crafting the characters and plot points with a light touch that leaves you sightly surprised by how happy and emotional you are by the time it all ends. Okay, on the one hand, you can criticise it for the lack of realism and the constant sense of optimism but that's not the point. It's an optimistic film. It's a film that uses something that seems unrealistic to display a wonderful and idealistic parent-child relationship at the centre of everything, and then surrounds that central relationship with other great depictions (Offerman and Collette, Offerman and Danson, Clemons and her girlfriend, played by Sasha Lane, etc). People go through ups and downs with one another and it's all done in a really satisfying way without ever trying hard to make it overly cinematic or inauthentic. That's the reality the movie aims for, which counterbalances any and all of the plot contrivances, in my opinion anyway.
The cast are all perfect. I will watch Offerman in anything, ever since I discovered the greatness of him in Parks & Rec, but he's on top form here, and Clemons is every bit his equal, arguably working with the trickier role (as she struggles to adjust to her upcoming life, it would have been all too easy for the performance to be a bit too moody and in line with many sullen teens we have seen in cinema before). Collette continues to be as great as ever, always being a good friend to Offerman despite the moments in which he mistakenly aims his frustration and anger at her, and Danson is wryly amusing in his role. Lane has a lot less screentime to make an impression, but she does well in her role, and the only major mis-step is the plot thread revolving around Blythe Danner (who puts in a good performance but feels like an unnecessary addition, just there for added emotional moments, in the role of the elderly mother of Offerman, and someone not always as mentally acute as she used to be).
I would be remiss if I didn't include Keegan DeWitt somewhere in this review, the person responsible for writing the main songs that are played by Clemons and Offerman in the film. I would happily listen to this soundtrack, which is a major plus when the story is based around a father and daughter who work well together to create some wonderful songs.
There's not much more to say. This is sweet without being saccharin, predictable without being dull, and magical without feeling ridiculous and fake. I would recommend it to most people, but especially if you enjoyed the likes of Sing Street (which was probably the last film I saw to make me grin like this one).
You can buy it here.
Americans can buy it here.