Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons sing their way into your heart in this low-stakes dramedy about how we deal with change.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that not every movie needs to have massive stakes. In this era of blockbusters destroying the world over and over and dramas addressing societies most profound ailments, we should always leave room for films like Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud. It’s the kind of film that isn’t asking much from you beyond sitting back and smiling as it gives its cast room to be delightful. Its most profound realization is that what matters, in the end, is love. Ain’t that sweet?
Making it sweeter is the fact that Haley’s film is anchored by a delightful pair, Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, playing a father/daughter unit that is dealing with the ever-changing nature of life. She’s finding romantic love for the first time (with American Honey‘s Sasha Lane) and he’s about to give up a record store he’s owned for 17-years. All of this during her last summer at home in Red Hook, NY before leaving for med school in California.
The real charm isn’t in the way the story unfolds, but in the human moments shared onscreen. Offerman and Clemons feel at first like an unlikely pair, but their chemistry is genuine. He’s the man-child father who wants to hang out and start a band with his daughter. She’s the wise-beyond-her-years responsible kid who would rather study. And when he finally convinces her that it’s time to relax and jam, the real talent swells. For Clemons, her turn as a supporting character in Dope was at times musical, but it’s nothing like what we get here. She jumps off the screen with grace and vocal brilliance. As she’s singing, we are often presented with the kind, adoring eyes of Nick Offerman. He’s always been great as the gruff man’s man, but he has a deeply underestimated ability to be earnest, compassionate, and vulnerable. Together they are wonderful.
There’s also something to be said about the way Brett Haley and co-writer Marc Basch — who worked together on last year’s The Hero — don’t feel the need to overcomplicate things. They set up various points of dramatic tension well. For example, there’s a part of the story where Offerman’s character takes starting a band with his daughter a little too seriously and ends up with a record contract offer. But they don’t do the Hollywood thing and allow the story to spiral into a less-grounded place. They allow their characters to make grounded, human decisions about their lives. It all feels incredibly honest, despite the fact that it lacks the sensationalism one might expect from the silver screen. Both in script and the way he allows it to come to life from his director’s chair, Haley seems more interested in the truths of our human condition than the exacerbations of our dreams.
Simply put, Hearts Beat Loud is full of what its title promises: heart. In that heart, there’s a song. And in that song is a forthright story about love, parenthood, and dealing with change. The film also gets plenty of full-hearted joy from its supporting cast — the likes of Ted Danson, Blythe Danner, and Toni Collette — all of whom are great. But in the end, it’s the Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons show. And they’re both wonderful.
When does the soundtrack come out? Because I’m buying it.
Our review of Hearts Beat Loud originally ran during Sundance 2018, but we’re re-posting it as the film is currently in limited release.