With a hint of wistfulness to give it some weight, Hearts Beat Loud is a happy, sunshiny movie about saying goodbye, letting go, and collaborating with loved ones to make sick beats. It stars Nick Offerman as Frank Fisher, a widowed record-shop owner and erstwhile musician in Brooklyn whose whip-smart daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), is going to UCLA in the fall. This is their last summer together, a season of change that also includes Frank’s decision to close his store (like all record-shop owners in movies, he’s surly and condescending to the few customers he has) and ongoing problems with his aging mother (Blythe Danner), whose mental condition is deteriorating.
For old times’ sake, Frank and Sam have a jam session — him on guitar, her on keyboards and vocals — and end up producing a song that coincidentally bears the same title as the movie. Both are genuinely talented, and we get the sense they’ve done this before. The song makes it onto Spotify, and Frank, a bit over-eager, thinks he and Sam should form a band and start performing. Sam, acting like the adult, wants to be practical and concentrate on her pre-med studies. What is she supposed to do, drop out of college before she even starts? To be a rock star? Come on, Dad.
Directed by Brett Haley (The Hero) with Marc Basch as co-writer, the film succeeds on the sweet charm between Nick Offerman in full doofus dad mode and Kiersey Clemons as his lovingly embarrassed daughter, but there are several other pleasant touches too. Ted Danson appears as Frank’s favorite stoner bartender, dispenser of advice and weed; Toni Collette plays his supportive landlady, who wants to save the store; and there are a few tender, quiet moments between Sam and her girlfriend (Sasha Lane) to remind us of Sam’s point of view: She’s leaving her father AND her friends.
The film’s interest in music isn’t merely incidental. We hear “Hearts Beat Loud” more than once, and three other Frank & Sam songs (written by Keegan DeWitt) in their entirety, all quality tunes that give us time to contemplate what’s happening in the story emotionally, underneath the affectionate humor and rock-star pipe dreams. Come for the exemplary father-daughter relationship, stay for the soundtrack.