Everyone knows Nick Offerman as the ultra-manly, wood-chopping Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation but now that the mustache is off, Offerman has taken on more grounded roles that let him expand his range rather than stilt him in caricature. Hearts Beat Loud molds the hardened Offerman into a softy, turning him into a devoted father who will do anything to spend time with his daughter.
Offerman plays Frank, a former musician who has decided to close his record store after 17 years. His daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), is a talented youngster who has a bright future in UCLA’s pre-med program. In his free time, Frank tries to coerce Sam into having one of their family “jam seshes” where Frank plays bass and Sam plays the keyboard and sings. When Frank posts one of their songs on Spotify, it becomes a small hit, making its way onto the indie mix playlists. Frank wants to see how far their fame can go while Sam just wants to lay low until she starts her new life in California.
Father-daughter stories are not original, but writers Brett Haley and Marc Basch create one that radiates genuine warmth. Offerman and Clemons feel like a real family with real problems and insecurities. Sam wants to start her new life on the other side of the country, while Frank isn’t ready to be a household of one. But Hearts Beat Loud is about making sacrifices and adapting to the change that comes with it.
One of the more compelling side plots is Sam’s relationship with Rose (Sasha Lane), a wild spirit who frees Sam’s inner self. She teaches Sam how to ride a bike, despite her reservations to learn since her mother died in a cycling accident. Their relationship is beautiful and refreshing, even though we know how it ends. But we care more about seeing it flourish in the moment.
Meanwhile, Frank has his own romantic hurdles with his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette). Their will they/won’t they relationship gets tiresome after a while and is only present as an excuse for Frank to sling some drunken insults later on. But her ability to keep Frank grounded when he is quietly breaking is sweet and another shining example of the strong women in his life.
Similar to 2016’s Sing Street, Hearts Beat Loud is a music-driven film, not a musical. With original music by Keagan Dewitt, the film has four catchy tunes that won’t escape one’s head easily. Whether it’s a poppy title song or a love ballad, Dewitt has managed to grab our hearts . And it wouldn’t be possible without Clemons’ hypnotic voice, which could easily top a top 40 chart. With her immense talent, this could be the star making role of Clemons’ career.
This review was originally published during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.