'Hearts Beat Loud' Combines An Emotional Story With A Bouncy Soundtrack

By James Jay Edwards
Released: June 22, 2018
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A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college.

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Film Review
Although "quirky" and "charming" have become film criticism buzzwords, they really are the perfect words to describe music-driven, indie movies like Frank, Sing Street, and Band Aid. And they're also the perfect words to describe Hearts Beat Loud.

Hearts Beat Loud, image courtesy Gunpowder & Sky.

Hearts Beat Loud is about an aging musician/record store owner named Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman from "Parks and Recreation") whose daughter, Sam (Dope's Kiersey Clemons), is preparing to go to medical school at UCLA. Trying to hold on to his youth, Frank has nightly jam sessions with Sam, who is a talented musician in her own right. When one of these sessions results in a poppy little song, Nick uploads the recording to Spotify. It ends up on a new indie music playlist, and the duo has a minor hit on their hands. Wanting to capitalize on their "success" (and also dealing with the reality of his failing retail business), Frank pushes Sam to continue on with the band, while Sam just wants to go to med school and get on with her life.

Hearts Beat Loud is the brainchild of writer/director Brett Haley and his writing partner Marc Basch (the duo behind I'll See You in My Dreams). It's one of the new breed of indie musicals in which the pop songs play an integral role in the storytelling, but they're injected into the plot organically - when Frank and Sam break into song, it's because they're writing or performing, not just because a swelling orchestra is playing beneath them. Hearts Beat Loud is a musical that tricks its audience into thinking that it's not a musical.

Hearts Beat Loud, image courtesy Gunpowder & Sky.

At the heart of the movie is the relationship between Frank and Sam, a relationship strained by financial and emotional problems, but solidified by an obvious common love. While Sam prepares for the onslaught of adult life that will come with medical school, Frank struggles to come to terms with the fact that his record store is a dinosaur that will soon be extinct. All Frank has is his daughter, and he wants desperately to connect with her in her last summer at home. And that connection comes in the form of music, which next to his wife and daughter, has been the biggest love of his life.

There's not a whole lot to Hearts Beat Loud on a plot level. Character-wise, there's a bit more, but it's a little thinly painted there, too. What it does have is an emotional connect which helps the viewer relate to the characters, to empathize with them, to root for them. And that's something that a lot of complicated movies don't have. So, in that regard, Hearts Beat Loud succeeds where many other films fail.

Hearts Beat Loud, image courtesy Gunpowder & Sky.
Hearts Beat Loud is definitely Frank and Sam's story, but Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are supported by an ensemble that includes some of the best in the biz. Toni Collette, who has already shocked audiences his year in the horror film Hereditary, plays the landlord of Frank's record store. Ted Danson essentially reprises his "Cheers" television role as the owner of Frank's local watering hole. Blythe Danner, who worked with Haley and Basch on I'll See You in My Dreams, pops in as Frank's borderline-dementia suffering mother. And Sasha Lane, who burst onto the scene a couple of years ago in American Honey, appears as Sam's love interest (and the inspiration for her love songs). While Hearts Beat Loud is not going to be the pinnacle of any if its cast members' careers, everyone does fine and, more importantly, they all stay out of the way of Offerman and Clemons, who are the real stars of the film.

Hearts Beat Loud, image courtesy Gunpowder & Sky.
A movie like Hearts Beat Loud is only as good as its original songs. The tunes for the film were written by Keegan DeWitt, who, in addition to being a member of the indie rock band Wild Cub, has also composed the scores to movies like Bokeh and Land Ho! The songs in Hearts Beat Loud are happy and bouncy, and sound like exactly what they are supposed to be in the movie - home recordings of an indie pop duo that are entirely digital in scope, complete with sampled drums and over-processed guitars. The soundtrack includes four songs "by" Frank and Sam, with lyrical content that ranges from a simple love song from Sam to her gal, to an ode from Frank to his record store called "Everything Must Go" (which is a statement about his going-out-of-business sale as well as one about the changing times of the retail world). The songs are the anchor for the film, and DeWitt's music is a slam dunk. The only problem is that there should be more of it, but hey - maybe there will be an outtakes or B-sides album someday.

Hearts Beat Loud, image courtesy Gunpowder & Sky.

Drama, Music
Release Date
June 22, 2018
MPAA Rating
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score