Movie Review: 'Hearts Beat Loud': A Family That Plays Music Together Does Not Stay Together

Mark Jackson
PG-13 | 1h 37min | Drama, Music | 8 June 2018 (USA)

One of life’s most confusing situations for young people is figuring out that one’s dominant talent in life might not be the deciding factor in finding one’s life’s work. As they say, vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

“Hearts Beat Loud” is about single dad Frank (Nick Offerman, best known as Ron Swanson from TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) and his biracial daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons), who live in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

 Frank (Nick Offerman) and Sam (Kiersey Clemons) as father and daughter musicians in “Hearts Beat Loud.” (Gunpowder and Sky)
Frank (Nick Offerman) and Sam (Kiersey Clemons) as father and daughter musicians in “Hearts Beat Loud.” (Gunpowder and Sky)

Sam’s got stellar musical chops and a world-class voice, and Frank wants more than anything to see her musical gift blossom. He, Sam’s mom, and Sam’s grandma (Blythe Danner) were all musicians. And now mom’s dead, dad runs a musty vinyl store, and grandma’s got dementia and steals stuff.

Sam’s not having any of that—not following in those footsteps. She’s off to a West Coast college in the fall to go pre-med. Will she drop med school plans and tour with dad? Become a rock star, maybe? She’s got what it takes. This heartwarming little movie is about dad having a hard time figuring out that his daughter’s deep hunger might be to avoid an unsuccessful artist life at all costs.

Hearts Beat Quietly

As the movie starts,  black-T-shirt-clad, tatted, salt-and-pepper-bearded hipster-dad Frank walks with a swagger that says he thinks he can still rock a Fender Telecaster. After long days at his it-was-cool-in-the-'90s, retro-vinyl shop, he drinks at “Cheers.” Just kidding, but it is rather fun to see Ted Danson from “Cheers” play Frank’s buddy Dave—a bartender (what else?) again.

Leslie, Frank’s landlady (Toni Collette), waited as long as possible before raising the rent on Frank’s record store, which will put him out of business. However, they have an unspoken mutual appreciation, and she’s got sprucing-up plans to keep his shop open: put a barista and some coffee options in there, maybe.

Frank, however, stubbornly prefers the funky “patina” his shop’s developed over the years. This is hilariously demonstrated when a millennial hipster, so flagrantly put out by Frank’s in-store cigarette smoking and his “If you buy something, I’ll put it out” attitude, he flounces outside, orders the album on iTunes, and waves his smart phone at Frank from outside in order to rub Frank’s nose in his record store’s obsolescence.

Ultimately, though, Frank will undergo the second male rite of passage—the laying down of the warrior sword (er, hipster pipe dreams) and the taking up of the elder staff (um, getting a real job). Frank’s going to let his rock star dreams go, and settle for a lack of extreme specialness.

Father and daughter have reached the embarrassing stage where she’s the parent, shaming Frank about budgetary realities, and making him take back the Les Paul guitar that he splurged for in a fit of rock star fantasy. He wants to get their father-daughter rock ‘n’ roll act on the road, but she would prefer he finally locate her birth certificate, so she can get the go-to-med-school show on the road.

Hearts Beat Louder

But they record a catchy tune, and Frank uploads it to Spotify under the it-started-as-a-joke name of “We’re Not a Band.” Suddenly, the song is on the air in Frank’s favorite coffee shop, and Offerman does a fine job of capturing what that moment must be like when a musician first hears his song on the radio. Is that a situation anybody can remain cool in? Probably Keith Richards handled it with extreme cool. Little Richard—probably not so much.
Frank’s off and running. He’s got one of those classic, black-and-white-marbled kid’s notebooks and is immediately hard at work on their musical career plan of action.

Hearts Beat Loud

The songs are catchy, and father and daughter make some fine music together, with Offerman either dredging up some ancient, actual musical chops on guitar and drums, or doing a world-class acting job of looking like he knows what he’s doing. He even sings well.

Clemons’s singing, on the other hand, is you-just-watched-a-new-pop-star-get-born good. The songs may crash the Top 40 when this soundtrack releases.

All of it all feels deeply honest, which, in this time of endless amounts of ridiculous onscreen nonreality, is highly refreshing.

'Hearts Beat Loud' Director: Brett Haley Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes Rated: PG-13 Release Date: June 8 Rated 3.5 stars out of 5
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years’ experience as a New York professional actor, working in theater, commercials, and soap operas. He has a classical theater training and a BA in philosophy from Williams College. As a voice actor, he recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook, “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World.” Mark's professors suggested he become a professional writer. He became a professional actor instead. Now he writes professionally about acting. In the movies.