A Father and a Daughter Make Music and Memories in a Moving Dramedy
Title: Hearts Beat Loud
Rating: PG-13 for some drug references and brief language
Run Time: 1hr & 37mins
**** (out of ****)
Music connects everyone and everything in Hearts Beat Loud, a drama/comedy hybrid in which a father and his daughter rediscover what it means to live years after the death of their wife and mother, respectively. The father is facing the closure of his business. The daughter is a prospective medical student. Their lives have entered a kind of emotional rut, and now everything is on the precipice of changing forever. Screenwriters Brett Haley (who also directed) and Marc Basch have provided us with characters capable of great compassion and also of great pain. The treatment very much tips in the favor of that former trait.
In other words, it’s a giant teddy bear of a movie, wrapping us in its loving embrace as it offers a familiar story in new clothing. The cumulative effect of this movie hits the viewer with a considerable impact by a climactic scene in which our two characters share a performance of a few silly songs as an outlet for their pent-up fears of separation, as a form of therapy that ties up loose ends of a years-long relationship that has led to a shared resentment of each other, and as, simply and purely, a joyous explosion of shared interests. Rarely has music been used so vividly as a reminder of its power.
The father is Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman), the owner and operator of Red Hook Records, a seller of vinyl LPs for the last 17 years. As the story begins, the business is fading. No one seems interested in buying vinyl, even with its recent comeback, and his rent being spiked upward by landlady Leslie (Toni Collette) was, for him, a sign that he shouldn’t renew his contract. He toodles his days away in a bar run by his pot-happy friend Dave (Ted Danson), dealing with his aging mother Marianne (Blythe Danner), and writing lyrics to songs that will never be performed while holding a vigil by the spot where his wife and former bandmate was killed in a freak bicycling accident.
The daughter is Sam (Kiersey Clemons), who is looking forward to fulfilling her dream of being a doctor when two significant things happen to provide a pair of speed bumps on that road to success. One is a budding relationship with aspiring artist Rose (Sasha Lane), who has a mind to stay where she is, and the other is a song that results out of her regular “jam sesh” collaborations with Dad. Frank, seeing something in her voice, uploads the song to a streaming service, it takes off, and the two form a band called – ahem – We’re Not a Band (which is a brilliant name however one approaches it).
Haley and Basch never once prop up useless melodrama to force the story forward in a false or fake way. Instead, they emphasize the laidback nature of the characters and their interactions. Perhaps the closest thing to a typical indie moment is a romantic connection between Frank and Leslie, but the screenwriters (and Offerman, great as a man with a lot of baggage and sadness behind his eyes) are smart not to resolve this thread in a tidy or easy way. Likewise, the film provides Sam with enough agency that backing down from her occupational dream at magic hour is only a brief consideration at a somber moment – nothing more. Hearts Beat Loud is wise and funny, effortless and charming, and its makers make the whole thing look easy.
(Review by Joel Copling)
(Review by Chase Lee)