IFFBoston Movie Review: ‘Hearts Beat Loud’
Directed by: Brett Haley
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, and Toni Collette
Plot: A single dad tries to connect with his daughter over music before she goes to college
Nick Offerman stars as “Non Swanson” (real name: Frank Fisher), an artsy city-living hipster dad who longs for playing live music and enjoys social situations. It is the complete opposite of the patron saint of small-town libertarianism that Offerman is so well-known for. I suspect this is much closer to the real Nick Offerman, except instead of a wood-working actor, he is the owner and operator of a vinyl record store in Red Hook.
Although his brilliant daughter, Sam (played by Kiersey Clemons), is looking forward to a left-coast pre-med education, he convinces her to regularly slow down for jam sessions. When they decide to record a song that she had been working on, they seem to have struck gold. Spotify puts them on their new artist playlist, and they even get the attention of a local record label. With his live music itch finally being satisfied, Frank tries to convince his daughter to give up on her dreams of being a doctor so that they can make music together.
It’s a really weird plot that when you spell it out like that. It sounds like it paints Nick Offerman as a villain, but that tension is more subtle than that. The music is just symbolic of all the unexpressed feelings that both Frank and Sam have about their relationship. It is surface level tension that energizes their summer before she goes to college, that prolific summer of heat-warming soul searching that so many indie movies have chosen for their setting.
It is a type of movie that is very easy to write off as being overly sappy or sentimental, but it does stay in a very key strike zone. The drama is tense with personal stakes, but it is never melodramatic. The comedy is very funny and charming, but it is never over the top. It is an easy, breezy….(wait….that’s the Cover Girl tagline)… it is a light-hearted and joyful movie for a very cynical, scary time, and it does this while remaining honest about sadness. When so many indie darlings are based on our most traumatic memories, Hearts Beat Loud is an appealing reminder to us of our best days, particularly how they lifted us away from our trauma.