****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THERE ARE ZERO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!****
My Rating: 1.75 out of 5 stars
My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Absolutely no need to see this frivolous and flimsy film.
Hearts Beat Loud, written and directed by Brett Haley, is the story of widower Frank Fisher and his teenage daughter Sam as they they make music in Brooklyn while she prepares to leave for college in Los Angeles. The film stars Nick Offerman (Frank) and Kiersey Clemons (Sam), with supporting turns from Ted Danson, Blythe Danner and Toni Colette.
Hearts Beat Loud is the type of film that I would usually never see, but due to the joys of MoviePass, I decided to roll the dice and check it out. Now having seen it, I realize that there is a reason I do not see movies like this…and that is because they are completely and totally frivolous in every single way.
Hearts Beat Loud is not a drama, it is not a comedy, it is not anything. It is not good, it is not bad, it is ninety minutes of absolutely nothing. Totally forgettable…literally…I remember next to nothing about the movie. It is the equivalent of a cinematic lobotomy. You may think I hated the movie, I didn't, but out of my love for cinema I do feel an aggressive indifference to Hearts Beat Loud.
The film feels like an extended, single camera, HBO sitcom set in a progressive utopia with all of the requisite indy music and emphasis on diversity. For instance, Frank Fisher is White but his daughter Sam is Black, and just to check off one more inclusivity box, Sam is also a lesbian. None of this is cause for the least bit of drama, God forbid, and it all passes with a consciously evolved non-comment to signal that the film is totally and completely "woke". To add to the diversity festival, Frank's best friend Dave, played by Ted Danson, is a gay stoner…but to the film's great shame he is, sadly, White.
Hearts Beat Loud is so soaked in progressive wokeness that it is little more than a liberal version one of those saccharine, Kirk Cameron, 'The Baby Jesus saved the farm on Christmas' type of movies that only the most philistine right-wing true believers go see.
The multiple narratives at play in Hearts Beat Loud all feel excruciatingly manufactured and are testament to Brett Haley's ineffectual writing and deficient direction. For instance, there is a B story about Frank's mother, Marianne, played by Blythe Danner, that is so idiotically useless it seems like a form of workfare for Ms. Danner, either that or she was collecting on a bet.
The secondary story of Sam's relationship with her new girlfriend Rose (Sasha Lane) is ridiculously rushed and therefore devoid of all drama. As is Frank's weird relationship with Leslie (Toni Colette), which is the most absurd narrative in the whole film. Leslie "likes" Frank, but not really, but sort of, but he is an asshole, but she is his landlord, and maybe his partner…and on and on in a hurricane of dubious nonsense.
Beyond being a diverse utopia, Hearts Beat Loud is also set in a sitcom-ian economic dreamworld as well. We are repeatedly told that Frank is stone cold broke and yet Frank and Sam live in a very sweet loft in Brooklyn's hip Red Hook area. I would be willing to wager that apartment costs at least $3,000 a month, and when you add in the fact that Frank's retro record store is perpetually empty…BECAUSE IT'S A FUCKING RECORD STORE…the only conclusion you can make is that this story is taking place on Fantasy Island and not in the actual Borough of Brooklyn.
To add to the economic absurdity of the movie, Frank is constantly buying things, like musical equipment, food, and a lot of alcohol at a bar, that he cannot afford…sort of like his daughter's tuition at UCLA. Frank's consequence less spending makes the movie feel more like an episode of Friends than a reality based independent movie.
As for the performances, well…Nick Offerman is sort of a cult figure due to his role as Ron Swanson in NBC's Parks and Recreation but I never watched the show so I am apparently immune to his droll and quirky charms. Offerman is a pleasant enough screen presence, but he is an extremely limited actor with the range of a drugstore wooden Indian, and so he is unable to adequately carry the film.
Kiersey Clemons is an extremely charming and likable actress but again, also very limited in her acting range, which makes for an uncomfortable pairing with Offerman. The two of them seem less like father and daughter and more like two strangers chatting at a sweltering bus stop. I noticed that the two of them barely, if ever, actually touched one another.
I do not know if Clemons sings the songs in Hearts Beat Loud, but if she does she has a great voice. The problem with the musical sections though are that they feel as fake as the rest of the movie. It frustrates me no end when a film is attempting to take place in reality and then someone sings and it sounds like they are in a recording studio as opposed to live. Hearts Beat Loud has Clemons lip-synch to the flawless vocals and I felt like I was watching an episode of Saved by the Bell when the gang gets a band together.
Ted Danson as bartender Dave, a sort of gay Sam Malone, is, like the rest of the film, forgettable, as is Toni Colette in an incoherently written character that does nothing but add to the detritus floating in the vacuous puddle that is this movie.
The preview for Hearts Beat Loud claimed that "this is the feel good movie we need right now". Hearts Beat Loud as a sort of salve for the brutality of our times speaks volumes about the vapidity of our current culture. This is indeed the movie we need right now if we want to stay anesthetized and comfortable in our pleasantly delusional bubbles and echo chambers. This film is unintentionally saying a great deal about the unique allure of the soft pillow of opioids here in America, which hold the promise of never having to feel the rough edges of life…or actually feel anything, good or bad…ever again.
As incoherent as the script and as flaccid as the direction, the worst thing about Hearts Beat Loud is the title. It should have been titled "Ain't Just A River in Egypt", because this movie, and anyone who likes it, is living in a suffocating and stultifying state of denial.
Hearts Beat Loud is symbolic of the emaciated state of our culture and the superficiality of we the people. If you are that desperate to shut off your already comatose mind, then wait for Hearts Beat Loud to air on cable or Netflix. Under no circumstances should you actually pay money to go see an amateur-hour shlock-fest like Hearts Beat Loud in the theatre, because it has no heart, it is not beating and it sure as hell isn't loud.