The changes that technology have ushered into everyday life have created an array of wondrous possibilities while also creating a number of unforeseen complications. It’s hard to think of industries that have been decimated quite to level as print and recording. The ease of piracy wreaked havoc on record labels and record stores, leaving just a few select few brick and mortar establishments still open as customers flee shuffling through dusty record bins in favor of streaming their favorites on Spotify or countless other available services. Following up last year’s The Hero, director Brett Haley recruits Nick Offerman to headline Hearts Beat Loud, a modest blend of comedy and drama infused with a modern pop soundtrack as a father struggles to preserve his fledgling business and the inevitable departure of his daughter to college.
In Red Hook, New Jersey, Frank Fisher (Offerman) runs a local record shop. Frank has accepted the fact that he can no longer afford to keep the shop open and has given notice to his landlord, Leslie (Toni Colette). Further complicating Frank’s life, his teenage daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is about to move 3,000 miles away to attend college in California. Frank and Sam are close which is why the father fears losing his daughter to her new life at college. One evening, Frank and Sam commit to a jam session, where they end up recording one of Sam’s songs, “Hearts Beat Loud.” Frank is reinvigorated by the music and wants to start a band with his daughter but Sam is more interested in starting the next chapter of her life at college. This gets complicated when “Hearts Beat Loud” finds its way online and becomes a hit on Spotify. Soon a rift emerges between Sam and Frank as he pressures her to pursue music, chasing his own elusive dreams of rock stardom.
There’s not much in the screenplay by Haley and co-writer Mark Basch that’ll leave audiences surprised. It’s a fairly basic and straightforward story that unfolds just as you’d expect. What would be a problem for most films doesn’t wind up being much of a problem for Hearts Beat Loud mainly because its well-cast leads. Nick Offerman and his amazing ability to balance a gruff exterior with emotional tenderness anchors the drama and the comedy of the film. He has a great chemistry with Kiersey Clemons that makes it easy to forgive the film for its more predictable aspects. It certainly helps that supporting roles are filled with excellent veterans, such as Toni Collette as the landlord/romantic interest and Ted Danson as the local bartender.
Hearts Beat Loud is a step up from Haley’s last film, The Hero, though it lacks some of the stylistic flourishes that comprised the best aspects of his previous effort. Also like The Hero, Hearts Beat Loud has a few preposterous moments, one of which, again, features something going viral (something which, let’s be honest, never is that convincing in any movie). And yet, there’s a great big heart and warmth that exudes from Hearts Beat Loud because of the strong performances from its cast that mitigates some of the film’s weaker elements.
A pop song doesn’t have to have a lot of original things to say as long it has a beat and hook that is catchy, and that’s Hearts Beat Loud. There’s not much new, per se, in Brett Haley’s film but it’s got that hook in the tender warmth and wounded masculinity that Nick Offerman brings to his record store father. None of this would work if not for Kiersey Clemons helping Offerman give the film its emotional weight, a relationship that exists in the frames between the beat. Hearts Beat Loud is a fairly familiar tune, but it strikes the right chord for the song its trying to compose.