Frank Fisher runs a record store in Red Hook. After seventeen years, he has decided not to renew his lease. Meanwhile, this is the last summer before his daughter, Sam, leaves for college. In an effort to keep her close to him, Frank tries to persuade Sam to join him in a band. This is the plot of Hearts Beat Loud, a slight, pleasant, comedy/drama with good music and performances, but lacking in satisfying complexity.
The film’s two best assets are its stars, Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons. Offerman, a very funny actor, is convincing as a guy who has never completely given up on his musical dreams. He seems stuck in a place where he knows he needs to make some adjustments in his life, but he has no idea what those are. Offerman has solid chemistry with Clemons, playing a character who thinks she has to be older than her years. Their moments together are fun, while hinting at something more meaningful. Also good are Offerman’s scenes with Toni Collette as his landlord and Ted Danson as his bartender friend, as well as Clemons’ subplot with Sasha Lane as her new girlfriend. There is so much I liked about Hearts Beat Loud that it ended up being disappointing that director/co-writer Brett Haley never stretched the actors by going deeper with the emotions of the story.
Though it works well enough, in the end the screenplay is content to keep these people at surface level. There appears to be a lot going on between Frank and Sam that does not get fully explored by the movie. Their connection is the heart of Hearts Beat Loud, however it never gets further than the initial premise. She is focused on getting out, while he is making a last grasp for what he already has before everything changes. It is a fine setup, but Haley fails to build on top of it. He does the same thing with all of the relationships here, except for maybe the one between Sam and Rose. I was entertained by the story, although I was unable to get as invested in the characters as I wanted to.
One aspect of its production Hearts Beat Loud absolutely gets right is its music. Composed by Keegan DeWitt and performed by Offerman and Clemons, it is engaging and very true to what we know about Frank and Sam. In some movies featuring music, everything else stops as we watch the actors perform. Here, it feels like the characters performing. We learn just as much, if not more, about them from their songs than from their dialogue scenes. The leads prove capable of displaying their character’s passion for the material. It suggests a depth never really matched by the rest of the movie.
Hearts Beat Loud has the pieces to be quite moving, but it does not assemble them in the most effective way. It is a nice, affable film. I had a decent enough time watching it, even though I would have preferred if there was some additional substance. It is a crowd-pleasing father-daughter dramedy, with good acting and music. It made me laugh. I just wish it had made me feel a little more.
3¼ out of 5
Nick Offerman as Frank Fisher
Kiersey Clemons as Sam Fisher
Toni Collette as Leslie
Ted Danson as Dave
Sasha Lane as Rose
Blythe Danner as Marianne Fisher
Directed by Brett Haley
Written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch