Actors like Nick Offerman often do not get their due. Offerman was an integral piece of one of the great comedies of the past decade, yet never received an Emmy nomination. He consistently anchors indie comedies and dramas in supporting roles, such as The Kings of Summer or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Yet anyone who has seen Offerman knows the talent and skill that lurks just beneath the surface, and Hearts Beat Loud gives him the spotlight in a moving indie comedy.
Hearts Beat Loud follows a father, Frank Fischer (Offerman), in the weeks before his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), heads to college. With her impending departure, he juggles the closure of his record store, a relationship with his landlord (Toni Collette) and his mother (Blythe Danner) suffering from dementia. Meanwhile, Sam begins a relationship with an artist named Rose (Sasha Lane) that sparks her own artistic flurry. When Sam writes a song “Hearts Beat Loud” and Frank puts it on Spotify, the two suddenly form a songwriting duo. Yet no amount of delicious pop music can hide the struggle between them as Sam’s departure date looms.
Offerman and Clemons are simply amazing together, not just for their musical skill, but for their chemistry. Clemons perfectly inhabits a daughter with vision and focus that strays from her parent’s dreams. There’s a desperation in her voice and a will to assert her own agency that calls out in every scene. If it was not for Offerman’s loving and charismatic turn as her Dad, you might side with her. Yet the excitement and happiness that Offerman displays in many moments of the film will leave the cold-hearted in puddles of tears. The two gel in subtle ways, including very cute banter, that sells this relationship better than many similar films. Even when they hop on the instruments, their performances take a step up, selling the band as something real. You’ll legitimately want the debut EP from We’re Not a Band by the end of the film.
Director Brett Haley really brings together something special and full of love. He utilizes montage to expertly draw parallels and dichotomies throughout the film, adding subtextual layers into each moment. He and co-writer Marc Basch write absolutely brilliant and organic lines with a level of pathos you might not expect from this kind of film. They also display a level of knowledge about music and pop culture you’d expect from a Nick Hornby character, yet in a far more lovable way. Haley knows how to bring very strong performances out of the woodwork, and expertly balances a star-studded ensemble behind his two brilliant leads. This story stitches together moment after moment that simply spoke to me. Whether you’re someone about to begin a new chapter in your life or close one, Haley will pull on your heartstrings.
What really elevates the film is the amazing music that simply soars. Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock‘s original compositions are three of the very best songs I’ve heard this year in a movie. To me, the titular song “Hearts Beat Loud” is the best song I’ve heard in a film this year. Yet that does a disservice to “Everything Must Go” and “Blink (One Million Miles),” which are both integral to the film. The songs feel at home with many of inspirations brought up in the film, including Wilco, Iron & Wine, and Animal Collective.
The supporting cast takes a back seat in this one but still gives us great moments throughout. Lane continues her ascent, with some truly brilliant moments of intimacy with Clemons. The two are adorable together and a moment of non-verbal emotion in the last fifteen minutes of the film will tell you all you need to know about Lane’s talent. Collette chameleons her way into the background when she’s not necessary for the plot, but then pops into multiple scenes with the gravitas you’d expect. Ted Danson expertly plays a bartender (who knew?) and delivers some of the best comedic moments in the movie. Danner will also break your heart in beautifully subtle stories that will make you want to hug your grandma. As she suffers from dementia, your heart breaks a second time that anyone could lose moments so vividly explained.
While there’s a short period in the middle of the film that could have been whittled down, the overall work is so good. There are some films that make you joyously happy for hours or days afterward. Hearts Beat Loud is one of those films. With beautifully crafted music, a winning cast, and brilliant writing, this one will stick with you. Offerman and Clemons will amaze, and Haley directs this to perfect. Fingers crossed, they get to work together on more projects in the future.
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