Hearts Beat Loud takes some time to find its rhythm, but soon settles into an easy-going beat that makes for an enjoyable summer flick. With Nick Offerman (“The Founder”) playing lovable single dad Frank and Kiersey Clemons (“Flatliners”) as his hip, but driven, daughter Sam, it’s hard not to be pulled into this charming tale in which music brings people together and makes life more bearable. The film goes no further, however, content instead to stay in its sweet, unassuming bubble of light-hearted dramedy. Writer and director Brett Haley (“The Hero”) certainly touches on some larger themes — the loss of Sam’s mother and the dread with which Frank faces Sam’s impending departure to college among them — but never lingers for fear of bursting that bubble.
As Sam prepares to move across the country to study pre-med, her father faces more than one big change in his life. Red Hook Records, his record store of 17 years, is being forced to close down due to rising rent prices. Confronted by so much uncertainty, Frank clings to what he knows — his love for music. A passion he once shared with his wife, he now hopes to continue the family legacy through Sam. Their occasional “jam sessions” are clearly a source of joy for him, though Sam doesn’t seem to share the same eagerness despite her considerable talent. When the two create a song that he’s particularly proud of, Frank can’t help getting carried away with dreams of forming a successful band. After all, what daughter doesn’t dream of being in a band with her dad?
Offerman is particularly strong in these moments, a father beaming with pride at the realization that his daughter is more talented than he could ever have hoped, and Clemons steals the show with her beautifully raw voice and evident passion. Toni Collette (“Hereditary”) also features in Hearts Beat Loud, as Frank’s landlady and love interest, Leslie, and Ted Danson (“Big Miracle”) fits seamlessly as Frank’s friend Dave, a perpetually stoned bartender. Yet another jewel in the cast is Sasha Lane (“American Honey”), who is simply enchanting as Rose, an aspiring artist who falls in love with Sam. Clemons and Lane have a wonderful chemistry onscreen, and we quickly buy into their version of young love.
One of the film’s strengths is the nonchalance with which this relationship is presented: Yes, the characters are gay, but no, this is not a source of tension or drama. It’s refreshing to see a story in which LGBT+ characters are not solely defined by their queerness. The same applies for race — Sam is mixed race, presenting as black, while Frank is quite clearly white. This is quite simply explained (Sam’s mother was black), but it’s important to see this interracial family whose story does not entirely revolve around race issues. That’s not to say that issues such as sexuality or race should ever be ignored, and certainly there is room for further exploration, but that Offerman and Clemons are so easily believable as father and daughter that the audience is content with what we are given.
Music, naturally, plays a large role in Hearts Beat Loud, and Keegan DeWitt’s original score is packed with feel-good hits that are bound to be rolling about all summer. The majority of the film’s heartwarming moments come from these songs, and from watching them either being created or performed by this genuinely dynamic duo. Both Offerman and Clemons actually sing their parts (with just enough minor flaws to convey that authenticity) and despite hearing the title track a few times, it doesn’t grow old. Though the act of songwriting is undeniably simplified here, it’s interesting to watch the creative process be so thoroughly endorsed as a solution to life’s dilemmas.
With a script that refuses to reach very far, and doesn’t care about avoiding certain clichés, Hearts Beat Loud is almost admirable in its ease. Watch it, be gently uplifted by its small undulations, and know that it is exactly what it says on the tin. Haley feels no need to push for anything more, and that’s not necessarily a fault. It’s a decision, and at the very least, it’s one that will make viewers walk away with a small smile on their faces and an upbeat rhythm to tap their feet to.