“Hearts Beat Loud” is a mildly charming music drama movie which plays familiar notes while not bringing anything particularly new to its genre territory. Although it is often middling as being hampered by its predictable storytelling and thin characterization, its weak aspects are compensated to some degree by its nice soundtrack and its two likable lead performers, and the overall result was not a total waste of time for me at least.
The story of the movie mainly revolves around the relationship between Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons). Since his wife died several years ago, Frank has raised his daughter alone, and they have lived happily together in a neighborhood area of Brooklyn in New York City, but now Sam, who grows up to be a smart, confident young woman, is soon going to the West Coast for studying pre-med in UCLA. She is often busy with preparing for her upcoming education course, but that does not prevent her father from urging her to play music with him as usual, and she cannot possibly say no as a daughter who likes music as much as her father, who was once a band musician before beginning to run a local vinyl shop for supporting his family.
While they casually play music together, Sam shows Frank a song she recently wrote, and they instantly begin to work further on that song, which is titled, of course, “Hearts Beat Loud”. After their several hours of recording and mixing, the song sounds far better than before, and, quite impressed by the final result, Frank decides to upload it on a popular music website without getting his daughter’s permission. He does not expect much at first, but, what do you know, the song becomes quite popular within a few days, and he cannot help but excite about this unexpected success.
Frank suggests to Sam that they should start a band together (He has already named it “We’re Not a Band”, by the way), but, of course, Sam does not want that as she really wants to become a doctor, and there is also the other matter she has to deal with sooner or later. She has been in the relationship with a young woman named Rose (Sasha Lane), and she even writes a new song inspired by her feelings toward Rose, but both of them know well that their relationship will probably be over once Sam moves over to the West Coast.
Meanwhile, Frank has to deal with his own matter. His vinyl shop business has not been as lucrative as before due to its dwindling sale, and he has seriously considered closing down his vinyl shop. His sympathetic landlady Leslie (Toni Collette) suggests that they run the place together while bringing some changes into it, but he is not so eager about that, and that leads to a small conflict between him and Leslie.
While leisurely moving from one expected narrative point to another, the screenplay by director Brett Haley and his co-writer Marc Basch does not exceed our expectation much. Yes, we get a bitter scene where Sam and Frank argue with each other for their different opinions, and then we get your average music montage sequence to give them some time to think, and then we get a little moment of reconciliation, and then we get a big moment showing them playing music together in front of others (Is this a spoiler?).
I also must point out that many of supporting characters in the film are rather bland. Although I appreciate the unadorned depiction of Sam’s relationship with her girlfriend (Frank is well aware of his daughter’s sexuality, by the way), her girlfriend remains more or less than a plot element to function, and so are several other supporting characters in the film including Frank’s senile mother Marianne (Blythe Danner), who does not have many things to do except looking, well, senile.
Anyway, the movie is supported well by its two engaging lead performers. Nick Offerman, who drew my attention for the first time via his deadpan supporting turn in TV sitcom “Parks and Recreation”, constantly provides small laughs while imbuing his character with life and personality, and he also has a good chemistry with his co-performer. Kiersey Clemons, who previously played one of the main characters in “Dope” (2015), holds her own place well besides her co-performer, and she and Offerman always generate something interesting to watch whenever their characters push and pull each other.
In case of several notable performers surrounding Offerman and Clemons, they fill their underdeveloped supporting roles as much as they can. While Sasha Lane clicks well with Clemons during their few intimate scenes in the film, Toni Collette and Blythe Danner are criminally under-utilized in their thankless roles, and Ted Danson brings some extra humor to the movie as a local bar owner who is also Frank’s old friend.
Overall, “Hearts Beat Loud” is not good enough for recommendation, but it is not without charm, and its soundtrack will not disappoint you at least. Although they are not that memorable, the title song and other three original songs in the movie are fairly enjoyable, and Offerman and Clemons handle well their music performance scenes in the movie. I give the film 2.5 stars for my dissatisfaction with its story and characterization, but I will not deny that I was entertained as watching these two talented performers steadily carrying the movie together, and I hope that they will soon move onto better things to come.