Independent Film Festival of Boston 2018: Hearts Beat Loud, by Sarah Brinks
Hearts Beat Loud is really a lovely film. Sometimes the films at festivals can get a little heavy and dower, so it is nice when a sweet, well-made film comes along and freshens your pallet. Hearts Beat Loud stars Nick Offerman as a Red Hook record store owner and single parent of a very driven daughter, Sam, played by the talented Kiersey Clemons. Frank was a musician in his youth and has never given up the dream of being a star. Sam dreams of being a doctor but she has a natural musical talent. Sam is going way to college in California at the end of the summer and Frank wants to enjoy the time they have left making music together. During a “jam session” they write the titular song, ‘Hearts beat Loud’ and it ends up being played on a Spotify Indie list and Frank is reenergized to have a band. But Sam, ever the realist, is determined to go to college and be a doctor.
While Clemons is the fresh new talent of the film, I have to say the stand out star is Offerman. I am familiar with Offerman’s career but mostly from his role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. Frank has some commonalities with Ron but their spirits are very different. Offerman gets to be goofy and childish as Frank. There were countless delightful facial expressions and physically comedic moments in Hearts Beat Loud that endeared and frustrated me about Frank. The side characters of Dave the bartender and Franks stoner friend played by Tony Danza, the record store land-lady Leslie played by the wonderful Toni Collette, and Sam’s girlfriend Rose played by Sasha lane, help build out the Fisher’s world. Blythe Danner also appears in a few short scenes as Frank’s mother who is beginning to struggle with dementia.
It has been said many times on the Battleship Pretension podcast that the art in a movie about an artist must be good and I whole heartedly agree. Fortunately, the music in Hearts Beat Loud is great. Frustratingly a soundtrack does not exist for the film but the scenes when Frank and Sam are writing and performing are truly delightful. The scene in the beginning when they write ‘Hearts beat Loud’ feels believably organic. One scene that stood out was when Frank comes home and starts writing a song on his guitar. He uses a looping technique to build layer of music one on top of the other and it is hypnotic and beautiful.
There is something very charming about Hearts Beat Loud. So many movies about music or musicians feel very exclusive. Those types of movies often make me feel like I am not welcome if I don’t like the same artists or music represented in the film. Hearts Beat Loud is the opposite. You don’t have to be a music snob to enjoy the film, but that layer is there for you if that is your thing. That inclusiveness added to my enjoyment of the movie and how connected I felt to the characters.
The director, Brett Haley, said he wanted to make a film you could enjoy and take a break from the tough world we are living in and I think he succeeded. I was happy to be in the world of Hearts Beat Loud but it also didn’t overstay its welcome. I want to mention the editor Patrick Colman, who made some great choices especially during the musical sequences. The editing gave the scenes a feeling of spontaneity that helped sell the reality that the music was being created in that moment. I also want to give credit to the writers, Haley and Marc Basch. There are moments in the story when Sam has to be the adult and Frank the child never too ham-fisted. Frank is very much the parent and Sam the child, but she is just occasionally more mature or forward thinking than Frank. It felt real given their history together and their clashing goals.
Hearts Beat Loud is a great film to take a break out of your day and watch. You can sing along with the great songs and enjoy the complex bond between father and daughter as well as two artists.