Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
A Sincere Symphony for Your Soul
Having only seen Brett Haley’s previous film, 2017’s comedic drama The Hero, I wasn’t fully sure what to expect with his music infused drama follow-up Hearts Beat Loud. The Hero has shades of Lake Bell’s In a World… as veteran actor Lee Hayden (Sam Elliot) deals with the hardships of searching for work as an older actor while struggling with the snowballing cynicism, overbearing self-doubt, and inescapable illnesses associated with a lifetime of experience and old age despite being a blockbuster western television star ages ago. Sam Elliot had early Oscar contender buzz surrounding his performance in The Hero even though it didn’t really go anywhere. Laura Prepon has a strong outing as Elliot’s love interest and Nick Offerman is humorous and entertaining as Elliot’s drug dealer in the film.
Hearts Beat Loud reunites Offerman with co-writer/director Brett Haley and co-writer Marc Basch. Frank Fisher (Offerman) has owned his record store for 17 years. He is contemplating closing his music shop since it isn’t as profitable as it once was even though his landlady Leslie (Toni Collette) is more interested in saving the shop than Frank is. Frank is desperate for money since his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons from Dope and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) starts medical school in the summer. A spontaneous jam session between Frank and Sam suddenly gains life of its own and music reignites the bond between a father and his daughter.
Brett Haley has a fascination for characters that are talented individuals who have grown sour on the craft that they’ve built their careers and lives around, distanced themselves from said craft (albeit sometimes unwillingly), and eventually rediscover a new passion for over the course of the film. Hearts Beat Loud is about a father parting with his daughter. Sam is not only going off to college, but is leaving home to become an adult; this is a papa bird letting go of his baby bird as she spreads her wings and leaves the nest.
The music and the connection Sam and Frank discover because of it is the spark that keeps this father and daughter intertwined as she travels her own path to find a distinct identity. The music is also way better than it has any right to be. While it is really Offerman and Clemons singing and playing the instruments, Keegan DeWitt wrote all of the music. The songs are catchy, fun, and impressive in a White Stripes kind of sense; there are only two people performing with one on guitar/bass and backup vocals and the other on lead vocals and a digital sampler. The songs have this purity to them; an honest and genuine quality that make them feel like they’re from the heart even though they’re simple in nature since they’re generally about blossoming relationships or someone in our life who has passed on. This music triggers something inside of you and combined with the excellent film direction of Brett Haley and the believable performances from Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, Hearts Beat Loud relentlessly packs a wallop on your heartstrings and your tear ducts.
Nick Offerman has this charisma and tenderness to him you may not have seen him showcase before with his performance in Hearts Beat Loud. He’s funny at times and annoying at others just like a father who isn’t fully ready to move on to that next stage with his children is expected to be. He’s very much the caring parent as Frank Fisher. Even though Frank can come off as overbearing, stubborn, or even immature with his actions, his intentions are good and he wants what’s best for Sam. He pushes harder for this band since he and his wife were once in a band, but with Sam’s studies and her moving away music is the last thing that will make him feel close to his baby girl. Kiersey Clemons juggles confliction and facing the crossroads of life with ease. She is emotional and persistent and dating evolves into this serious thing that she could see putting off med school for while the music she never expected to see the light of day gains traction.
Hearts Beat Loud isn’t really the type of film I usually seek out. I’m not a parent and the concept is one that could be really cheesy if executed incorrectly. But Brett Haley brings these characters to life in a way that allows the viewer to empathize with Frank and Sam and make them and their journey feel as human as you or me. With outstanding performances, powerful music, and a riveting story that will make you laugh, cry, and dance to, Hearts Beat Loud is a musical expedition that is beautifully uplifting and profoundly inspirational. As the film ends, you’re left with this warm tingly feeling in your chest like you’ve just encountered a warm embrace from your favorite loved one. Hearts Beat Loud opens its arms and allows you to join a family you never knew you needed to be a part of.
© 2018 Chris Sawin