By Gregg Shapiro
In case you missed it, there appears to be a new movie trend in the works this spring. Single dads raising teenagers. First there was gay filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s “Lean On Pete”. The forthcoming “Eighth Grade” features a single dad and his daughter. Presently, we have Brett Haley’s “Hearts Beat Loud” (Gunpowder & Sky).
In “Hearts Beat Loud”, Frank (Nick Offerman) is a widowed single father raising daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) after her mother was killed in a bicycle accident when Sam was young. Frank, who had a brief, promising music career, is the proprietor of Red Hook Records, a vinyl only shop in Brooklyn. He’s a music snob who thinks nothing of smoking cigarettes in his place of business.
Sam is spending her last summer in Red Hook before heading off to UCLA to be a pre-med student in the fall. She’s taking summer courses to get a head start on things. At an art gallery in the neighborhood, Sam meets burgeoning artist Rose (queer actress Sasha Lane), and a summer romance begins.
Meanwhile, Frank has decided to close up shop after 17 years. It’s a strange and unexpected decision, especially since hipsters dig LPs and Red Hook Records has plenty in stock for sale. When he breaks the news to his landlord Leslie (Toni Collette), she appears genuinely shocked and saddened.
Sam is equally disappointed; and concerned. What will Frank do for money? Fortunately, because of Frank’s income situation, Sam’s tuition is greatly reduced. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that Sam’s impending departure is causing him all sorts of grief. Adding insult to injury, Frank’s kleptomaniac mother Marianne (Blythe Danner) keeps getting arrested for stealing. She also refuses to move in with Frank so he can keep an eye on her.
While looking for Sam’s birth certificate to complete her paperwork for college, Frank stumbles across a box of memorabilia. This inspires him to start making music, which in turn leads him to ask Sam to have the kind of jam sessions they used to enjoy together.
They end up collaborating on a song, “Hearts Beat Loud”, featuring lyrics by Sam. It’s so good that they record it. Then Frank takes it one step too far by uploading the song on music streaming service Spotify. Frank is back in songwriting mode, but Sam doesn’t particularly want to be in a band with her father.
Still, you can’t blame Frank for being excited when he hears “Hearts Beat Loud” playing on a local coffee house’s playlist. Naturally, Sam is mad at Frank for uploading the song without her permission.
Things are alternately bumpy and smooth after that. Leslie makes Frank a business proposition to keep the store open. Frank seeks advice from old friend and tavern owner Dave (Ted Danson). Sam tells Frank about Rose. Rose teaches Sam to ride a bike (something that was forbidden after her mother’s death).
As both Sam’s inevitable departure and the closing of the store approach, Frank gets the idea to go out with a bang by having him and Sam perform under the moniker We’re Not A Band. It’s here that “Hearts Beat Loud” gets Hollywood predictable. Regardless, it doesn’t necessarily detract from our fondness for the characters or the story.
Clemons is a revelation and Offerman manages to be slightly less annoying than usual. The supporting players, especially Collette and Danson, are welcome additions.
Without belaboring the point, “Hearts Beat Loud” is a movie with its heart in the right place. Rating: 3.5 peaches