The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Hearts Beat Loud

Every once in a while, a film comes along that is so warm and true that you just smile all the way through it. Hearts Beat Loud is one of them. There's no way this doesn't end up being the #1 feel-good movie of the summer. Directed by Brett Haley (The Hero, I'll See You In My Dreams), it stands alongside the films of John Carney, like Once and Begin Again, in telling a soulful story filled with equally soulful music.

Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a record store owner who once dreamed of being a big-time rock star. His daughter Sam (Dope's Kiersey Clemons) is about to leave for college in a few weeks. They like to jam in their free time he plays guitar, she sings and plays keyboards -- which leads to the creation of a song. Frank thinks it's pretty good and uploads it to Spotify, where it gains traction. Excited by the response, he wants to form a band with Sam, but she is committed to her education.

There are some effective subplots that compliment the main story. Frank attempts to court his store's landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, wonderful as always), and pours out his woes to bartender pal Dave (Ted Danson). Sam, meanwhile, falls for Rose (played by Sasha Lane from American Honey). This burgeoning romance inspires another song she writes.

At the center of Hearts Beat Loud is a very authentic father/daughter relationship. Offerman and Clemons display great chemistry together, really capturing the closeness that their characters have. We care about Frank and Sam because they care about each other. Scenes between them are observantly written, addressing deep ideas, such as the way parents see children as extensions of their own hopes and dreams. That's powerful stuff, which the two leads bring to life in a manner that makes you feel as though you're eavesdropping on real people rather than watching actors in a film.

Haley and co-writer Marc Basch create a fascinating conundrum for the father and daughter. Sam wants to be a doctor, while Frank wants to fulfill a long overdue dream of being a rock star. He can't do it without her, yet she has a dream all her own one quite incompatible with his. This central concept creates moments of compelling drama and others of great humor. No manufactured crises can be found anywhere in Hearts Beat Loud, just one realistic scene after another showing the ways Frank and Sam attempt to be true to themselves while still respecting each other.

The story is clever in its look at how modern technology makes it easier for people to get their work out there. Spotify proves to be a wonder to Frank. The song he and Sam record is suddenly heard by others. In one scene, he hears their song in a coffee shop and is overcome with joy. That adds a powerful layer to the plot, because Frank suddenly sees a way to grab the brass ring he could never reach before.

Of course, a movie like this requires good music, and Hearts Beat Loud has it. Composer Keegan DeWitt has penned some extremely catchy tunes. Offerman and Clemons do their own performing, showing musical talent to match their acting skill. Best of all, the songs Sam and Frank write pertain directly to the plot, so they serve as the characters' commentary on what's happening in their lives.

Nick Offerman gets a rare chance to play against Ron Swanson type here, showing vulnerability and sensitivity. He's great, conveying every ounce of Frank's passion. Kiersey Clemons, meanwhile, confirms that she's got a one-way ticket to superstardom, lighting up the screen with her energy and charisma. Despite an already-healthy resume, this is a breakout performance from her. Collette, Danson, and Lane all provide superb supporting work, adding immeasurably to the film's emotional impact.

Hearts Beat Loud is the kind of movie that you immediately want to watch again as soon as its over. One could nitpick about a few minor things a couple extra scenes between Sam and Rose would have solidified their on-screen romance but why do that? This is an uplifting, joyous film with terrific songs and first-rate acting.

You'd be crazy to miss it.

( 1/2 out of four)

Hearts Beat Loud is rated PG-13 for some drug references and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.

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