Sundance 2018 Review: Hearts Beat Loud is the Feel-Good Film of 2018.
Hearts Beat Loud marks the third film co-written and directed by Brett Haley to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. I never saw any of Haley’s work prior to attending the World Premiere of I’ll See You in My Dreams at Sundance back in 2015, but since that film, I have become a fan of his work. Haley’s latest film, Hearts Beat Loud instantly piqued my interest not only because of the cast but because I tend to adore films with stories that revolve around music.
Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a former musician that has owned and operated a record store for the past 17 years. As his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) prepares for her first year at UCLA, Frank starts questioning the success of his store and what he should do with his life. Just like her father, Sam loves music and often spends most of her free time singing and playing instruments. She writes a song called Hearts Beat Loud which Frank strongly believes has the potential of becoming a huge hit. Excited about the idea of being in a band with his daughter, Frank uploads the song to Spotify hoping that it will go viral while completely forgetting that Sam will be leaving for college in less than a week.
Hearts Beat Loud is a charming and heartwarming film that I loved every moment of. The idea of a father bonding with his daughter through music is a simple concept but one that works incredibly well. Marc Basch and Brett Haley’s script is chock full of humor and heart. The film is incredibly well-written with a great story and intelligent dialogue.
Throughout the film, Sam is trying to mentally prepare herself for college while struggling to express her feelings towards her girlfriend, Rose (Sasha Lane). While Sam is struggling with those issues, Frank is trying to dealing with his sick mother (Blythe Danner) while contemplating whether he should keep his record store open after a rent increase. There are a few other things going on, but I don’t want to reveal them as they are a crucial part of what makes the relationship between Frank and Sam’s so poignant and powerful.
I have been a big fan of Nick Offerman’s work ever since the first season of Parks and Recreation. Over the past eight years, Offerman has fought against being typecast and has proved to be a very well-rounded actor. The role of Frank Fisher is Offerman’s most impressive and emotional performance to date. Offerman had to embrace his comedic side as well as his dramatic side in this role. The character of Frank Fisher has a lot more to him than what initially meets the eye. I admired how the two writers slowly reveal Frank’s past throughout the film because it made every reveal that much more effective.
Since her role as Diggy in criminally underrated Dope, I knew that Kiersey Clemons would go on to become a huge star. After seeing her in Hearts Beat Loud, I am convinced that Clemons is a revelation with a voice that will knock your socks off. The character of Sam Fisher is complex and full of life. This is an incredibly smart and strong female character that is so easy to get behind and root for. The problems that Sam has to face are grounded in reality, and the way that she struggles with what to do feels entirely genuine and real.
The relationship and chemistry between Clemons and Offerman is spot on. The two of them bounce off one another with such ease. They have some great conversations throughout but the one that stood the most was the one where Sam and Frank discuss their future as musicians. I love that the tables are turned in this scene, and Sam is the one that tells Frank “we don’t always get to do what we love.”
While most of the film is centered on Sam and Frank, there are a few supporting characters who appear throughout the film. Toni Collette appears in the film for about 15 minutes and plays a somewhat important role in the progression of Frank’s story. She plays Frank’s landlord and despite raising the rent works hard to convince Frank that he should keep the store open. Sasha Lane plays Sam’s girlfriend, Rose. Lane and Clemons have great on-screen chemistry and make a very believable couple.
My only real issue with the film is the decision to cast Ted Danson as Frank’s friend Dave. Everytime that Danson came on-screen, I kept thinking about Sam Elliott. I don’t know if its just me but it felt like the character was written with Elliott in mind, but something must have happened where he wasn’t available, so Danson was hired in his place to play the part. I don’t think Danson was bad per se, but this role would have been a lot better if Elliott was cast instead.
This leads me to the film’s soundtrack which is just fantastic. Composer Keegan Dewitt wrote four original songs and all of them are incredible. The songs are catchy as hell, and the lyrics are powerful. Watching Kiersey Clemons and Nick Offerman perform these songs put a huge smile on my face. I also loved hearing all the songs performed at once which made for an incredibly emotional moment near the end of the film.
Hearts Beat Loud is the feel-good film of 2018. This is a delightful little film about life, loss, and letting go. Nick Offerman has never been better, and Kiersey Clemons continues to wow as an actress. Hearts Beat Loud is an irresistible crowd-pleaser that will leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your heart as you exit the theater.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Hearts Beat Loud is an 8 out of 10.