Director: Brett Haley
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson
Running time: 97 mins
Like its protagonist, 50-something record shop owner Frank, a lot of Hearts Beat Loud feels slightly stuck in the past, with the film following many of the conventions of mid-2000s indie fare. If the setup – single father in Brooklyn starts up a band with his daughter – sounds slightly twee, then that’s because it is, although the film might just be all the better for it.
Given the film’s ‘let’s start a band’ premise, it’s hard to shake the feeling that writer and director Brett Haley is slightly indebted to other music-based films, such as John Carney’s Begin Again or Sing Street. Like the former, also set in New York, Hearts Beat Loud does occasionally stay into slightly mawkish territory. However, unlike Carney’s film, there is something to be said for Hearts Beat Loud’s ability to embrace these sentimental moments, rather than shrugging them off in an ironic, oh-so postmodern fashion. Yes, some scenes may be a little heavy-handed, with the characters often spelling out what the audience should already be able to infer, but it helps that the players feel fully committed to these moments. Nick Offerman – long overlooked in American indie cinema as a genuinely great performer – shines in particular as the film’s protagonist, his deliberately cheesy dancing and dad jokes far from the gruff, moustachioed Ron Swanson role that made his name.
Yes, the plot is largely predictable, but there is still fun to be had in watching the pieces fall into place
The rapport between Offerman and Kiersey Clemons as daughter Sam create a pleasantly convincing sense of a father-daughter relationship in which the younger party often acts as the voice of reason. It is in the song-writing and performing scenes that the film really shines, with the relationship between the pair manifesting itself in their shared love of music, helped by a truly great soundtrack of original songs written by Keegan DeWitt and performed by Offerman and Clemons live on set. The fun supporting cast help proceedings, with Toni Collette seemingly a million miles away from her recent harrowing turn in Hereditary, and Ted Danson stealing all of his scenes as aging hippy bartender Dave.
On the whole then, Hearts Beat Loud offers a pleasant, if slight, diversion. Yes, the plot is largely predictable, but there is still fun to be had in watching the pieces fall into place. If you want a feel-good, music-based film, and have already seen Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! several times, then Hearts Beat Loud comes as a welcome piece of cinematic comfort food.
Did you know? Nick Offerman and Ted Danson have previously worked together on the second season of FX's Fargo.
Heart Beats Loud is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 9 August