Nick Offerman is a good dude to have around when a movie shows danger signs of descending into sentimental drool. Hearts Beat Loud beats that curse because the actor has always been allergic to bullshit. In Brett Haley’s Brooklyn-set family fluffball, the former Parks and Recreation star plays Frank, a widower who owns a vinyl-record store in Red Hook and dwells on the music career he almost had. Though his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons, wonderful), is a first-rate singer, she’s heading across country to study medicine at UCLA.
But maybe father and daughter can knock out a few tunes, with Frank on guitar and Sam on keyboard and vocals, before she leaves and Dad closes his store. Having lost Sam’s mother 11 years ago in a bike accident, he has mixed feelings about going it alone. His shoplifting mom (Blythe Danner) is still around. But shutting down his store means Frank is putting the lid on music as a sustainable career. Getting his offspring on his team is his last resort. And when their home recording of the title song – Keegan Dewitt’s music has the hooks to grab you – finds its way onto Spotify, the stage is set for a formulaic happy ending.
Which never comes, thankfully. Hearts Beat Loud refuses to goes sappy on us and Offerman, equally adept at comedy and drama, gives it a tough bore of intelligence and wit. His scenes with Clemons have a soulful grit; ditto his banter with a local bartender (Ted Danson) and a flirty landlady (a terrific Toni Collette). Credit Haley (The Hero) for dodging fake uplift. A hack would have turned Frank and Sam into overnight sensations. Instead, the writer-director recognizes the compromises that reality forces on dreams – and this soft breeze of a movie emerges as a scrappy surprise that’s hard to shrug off.