"HEARTS BEAT LOUD" — 2½ stars — Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Toni Collette; PG-13 (some drug references and brief language); Broadway
Brett Haley's "Hearts Beat Loud" is a music movie. It's also a relationships movie, which kind of goes without saying, since so much music is about relationships. It follows the story of a single father who tries to form a band with his teenage daughter before he sends her across the country to college.
Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, the owner of a vinyl record shop in Brooklyn. He's about to close his doors for good after 17 years in business, which is tough news to his longtime friend and landlord Leslie (Toni Collette).
The news doesn't seem as crushing to Sam (Kiersey Clemons), Frank's teenage daughter, who has decided to spend her final summer before college taking a pre-med course that will hopefully help her transition to life at UCLA. She sees her father as something of a slacker and treats him as such, but usually he can coax her into an impromptu jam session when the stars align.
One such session leads to a self-recorded single, which Frank uploads to Spotify behind Sam's back (there's a lot of contemporary technology in this film). When it stirs up some attention online, Frank buys new band equipment and breaks the good news to Sam, who feigns betrayal, gradually comes around, but insists they are not a band.
Naturally, Frank decides to call their act "We're Not a Band."
The music is only one element at work in "Hearts Beat Loud," which follows a handful of storylines through the New York summer as Frank prepares to lose his daughter to the West Coast, Leslie tries to come up with a remodeling plan that will keep Frank in business and Sam begins exploring a lesbian relationship with an artist named Rose (Sasha Lane).
At the heart of everything, Frank and Sam form an odd couple that seem connected and disconnected at the same time, which pretty much feels par for the course with teens and their parents (though to be honest, Sam's treatment of her father makes her character hard to like sometimes).
As a "music" movie, Haley's effort enters a category that will catch the attention of anyone who has ever tried to actually form a band. Stacked up against the likes of 2016's "Sing Street," 1991's "The Commitments" or 2000's "Almost Famous," "Hearts Beat Loud" hits some of the same chords, even if it doesn't quite capture the joy of making music as effectively as those superior films.
It does its best to pass on plenty of philosophy, though, whether through Dave (Ted Danson), a local bar owner who suggests we learn to love what we do since not all of us get to do what we love, or via other nuggets such as Frank's "when life hands you conundrums, you turn them into art."
"Hearts Beat Loud" is maybe a little too brooding for its own good, and its character-driven nature may leave audiences wondering just what conflict is driving the story at times, but it finishes with a nice third act. And with all the references to laptop recording software, YouTube clips and other technology, it may end up as an interesting little time capsule on the life of an indie music act in the 2010s.
"Hearts Beat Loud" is rated PG-13 for drug references and brief language; running time: 97 minutes.