What it's about: Frank Fisher is a record store owner who has long had dreams of being a rock star. With his only daughter Sam off to college on the west coast in a matter of weeks, she is pressured to perform jam sessions with him. When Frank uploads their latest collaboration, a song called "Hearts Beat Loud," it starts to get some recognition. This sparks his interest in making a genuine go at making music, but Sam is hesitant, solely focused on medical school. But with his business closing, his mother in poor health, and a complicated relationship with his landlady, this might be his one and only shot at his dream.
Hearts Beat Loud wouldn't work without the music and the music has to be good. Fortunately enough, it is, and maybe more importantly, it feels authentic to the characters. It is quickly established that they are really good musicians, maybe not pros, but they understand songwriting and form. When Nick Offerman plays the guitar or bass or drums, it doesn't cut around to make it look easier -- it is clear the man can play. When Kiersey Clemons sings, she can really sing. They both show legitimate star power.
The first jam session of the film evolves into a full songwriting montage. Yes, it is a little improbable that they could write and record an completely polished song in the matter of a few hours but the editing on the montage is clear and fun and shows the process really well.
In its execution, the "Hearts Beat Loud" sequence is on the level of the musical sequences of Once. There isn't the same amount of emotional connection to the characters at this point in Hearts Beat Loud, but the showcase of the artistic process is incredibly charming.
Features probably the best version of the hearing my song on the radio for the first time plot device ever.
Hearts Beat Loud isn't afraid to name drop musicians, a few even show up in the film. It is always a little annoying when films feel like they have to establish the characters' tastes by them talking about hip and trendy artists. And Hearts Beat Loud doesn't really need it -- their musical chops are established by them simply playing music.
There is a fun extra layer in the songwriting process with it being a father-daughter duo. Intentions within the lyrics are read in a different way by the characters because of their relationship. When Sam writes a love song, for example, she is hesitant to call it a love song so she doesn't have to talk about the relationship it is based on. Frank, on the other hand, is excited to know about the context within the lyrics.
Their emotional connection and the songwriting live on the same level in the narrative and it can naturally build the themes, narrative, and relationships. This is what musicals are supposed to do and Hearts Beats Loud utilizes the form well.
Offerman simply sitting on a stool, playing a sad sounding guitar riff has all the emotional resonance the film needs. It is a nice shorthand and difficult to pull off.
Seeing Toni Colette show up as a totally normal person only a few weeks after seeing her in Hereditary took a second to get over.
One of the best clues that Hearts Beat Loud is working on a narrative and emotional level is that I genuinely wanted the characters to pursue their band while completely understanding pragmatically why they couldn't.
Perhaps because director Brett Haley is known for films where older people find a new lease on life [I'll See You in My Dreams is his other film I've seen], this might skew his thematic interest in Frank's direction. Sam's realistic outlook isn't looked down on, however, even if she is less of the major focus of the film.
Maybe it is because I associate Nick Offerman so strongly with Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson, but I've never really considered him to be a real actor, whatever that means. Hearts Beat Loud gives him a pretty good opportunity to show a little bit of range and really carry a movie with both comedy and drama. I'm not going to think of Offerman at the end of the year, but that shouldn't discount what is a fine central performance.
Kiersey Clemons, on the other hand, may have already had something of a breakout with Dope, but this shows that she can be a star. I always feel wary of giving actors bonus points for singing, but it is such a key to the character and she performs so incredibly well.
The two actors together is what makes the film really sing [pun intended]. Offerman and Clemons wouldn't have been anyone's idea of an ideal screen duo, especially as a father-daughter pair, but they work perfectly together. Hearts Beat Loud is charming and cool because these actors are charming and cool. It is exciting that a film cast them together in these roles.