We’re told to chase our dreams as children. I remember my parents saying “Ben, you can do anything you put your mind to. Never give up your dreams.” And you believe it, because it’s coming from your parents. They are the holders of all knowledge when you are young and for many people, a parent’s words are the gospel.
But what about their dreams? Do you ever and stop and think “Did my parents follow this advice? Did they “never give up” on their own dreams?” I know it took me a long time to even begin to think about this with my parents. But after watching Hearts Beat Loud, I have come back to that thought in a big way.
Brett Haley is quickly putting together a strong resume as a young director and this film is going to push him to the next level. I had the pleasure of seeing this film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, a place that Haley has built a strong presence at over the last couple of years. In 2017 he opened and closed the festival with films and Hearts Beat Loud was a totally packed showing. The star power of lead Nick Offerman went a long way to make it a must-have ticket but Brett’s reputation in Cleveland is what drives the loyalty.
My wife and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, got to the theater an hour early and I’m glad we did, as the line grew to spill outside the door. I had been excited for this movie since I read the reviews from Sundance, and I can tell you it didn’t disappoint.
I’ve got the music in me
Nick Offerman, best known for his legendary role as Ron Swanson and having the best mustache in the entire multiverse, plays record store owner Frank Fisher. Red Hook Records, his vanity project for the last 17 years, is on the verge of closing, despite being surrounded by hipsters and having a very cool landlord, played by the delightful Toni Collette. Offerman and Collette have a fun and playful chemistry, making it a very interesting and dynamic relationship.
Kiersey Clemons, a name you need to watch because she will be a megastar before you know it, plays Sam, Frank’s daughter. A wildly intelligent young woman that is months away from leaving for UCLA to start school. We find out she is also tremendously talented as a singer and musician, traits passed down from her parents. Frank and his late wife were in a band and it is clear Frank isn’t over making music with someone he loves. Raising a child on your own has to be one of the hardest things a person can do, but it’s clear Frank has done a wonderful job. His daughter Sam is smart, has excellent taste in music (Tweedy, Tom Waits), and gets Marx Brothers references. I’d call that a job well done.
Frank pushes Sam to put down the books for a night and have a jam session with her Old Man. Both actors are really talented musicians and Clemons has a stellar voice. The soundtrack isn’t coming out until June and that makes me super sad. This film has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a while and I can’t wait to repeat the hell out of it.
So, Frank and Sam record a song and it’s really good. It’s so good that Frank is convinced that it’s the start of their new band. Sam doesn’t agree. “We’re not a band.” Frank, seeing a way to live his dream as a rock star and a way to hold onto his daughter, submits the song to Spotify. Once he hears the song playing at the local coffee shop, we are off to the races with this delightful and deep story.
Offerman played such an iconic role on Parks & Rec that is easy to view him just as Ron Swanson. But after seeing Hearts Beat Loud, it is clear to me that his range is so much more than the living embodiment of all that is man. And bacon. He has the beautiful depth of emotion to make you feel exactly everything he is going through. Every conflict, every battle he is having within his heart, in his very soul, you feel through his performance. The love and passion for both his family and his music is front and center and is utterly authentic. He makes you care so deeply and feel for him, even when he is being selfish and self-destructive.
I truly believe Offerman has a long and successful future in drama, if he wants to go that path.
Clemons, like I said, is a superstar in waiting. She absolutely has all the skills to take Hollywood by storm. Her love story with her girlfriend Rose, played by Sasha Lane, is so well done. It’s one of the best depiction of a same-sex relationship I’ve seen on screen. What makes it special is that is just two people in love. It’s not “Look, we have a lesbian couple! Look at us! Aren’t we progressive.” It’s just two young people that have found a connection and are trying to figure out if they are strong enough to survive a big change. Kudos to Haley and his writing partner Marc Basch for showing the how it can be done and done well.
Frank has to navigate this minefield of trying to be a good father and trying to hold on to the dreams he has had since he was a child. The film really looks at what it is to understand the life changing event that is being a parent. That while you have these big dreams and goals you just know you could obtain, as soon as you make a new life and bring it into the world, everything changes. Your life isn’t yours anymore – how will you handle this seismic shift in your reality? Who’s dreams come first? Yours or your child’s? Offerman does a masterful job in weaving back and forth, leaving you to wonder which side of line he will end up.
Love isn’t easy
This film love letter to love, in all its messy, complicated, sometimes painful but powerful glory. The love you have taken away from you too soon, the love you want to hold with two hands but slips through like mounds of sand, and the love of music – that universal force that drives so many.
It also shows love isn’t easy. It’s not what Hollywood has pumped out for years; simple and everything works out in the end. It is an honest and soulful look at what love really is, set to some phenomenal music.
I really loved this film and I can’t wait to see how far it will go. I think it will be around next year’s award season, with very good reason.
Hearts Beat Loud is a film that fills your soul with music and love and leaves a smile on your face. The film is set for a June 8th release, just in time for Father’s Day. Grab the Old Man and go have a blast.
Until next we meet, remember this; You’re the tops!