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REVIEW: Hearts Beat Loud

By Candace Nicholson

originally published: 05/26/2018

REVIEW: Hearts Beat Loud

The phrase “feel-good movie” tends to get an unfair rep these days. But Brett Haley and Marc Basch’s Hearts Beat Loud is certainly not to blame for that. This make-believe tale of a father and daughter on the cusp of an empty nest transition has more sincerity and virtue than most films submitted for Oscar nods each year, and a lot of that is due to the script, the tone and the performances of its perfectly complementary cast.

This is not the tearjerker you are looking for, but it is the film that will warm your air conditioned-chilled heart this summer as, little by little, you learn what makes this quirky parent-child duo work in their tiny Brooklyn microcosm of Red Hook. We begin our story in a last-on-the-vine record store owned by our bearded padre, Frank Fisher, played by Nick Offerman. He’s a no-nonsense man who’s quick with a cheeky joke and a sly smile, living and breathing the music he sells while fondly remembering his early career as a musician and all the joy it brought him. 

Frank -- albeit good-spirited -- is coping with a record shop in decline, an aging mother who enjoys exercising her shoplifting skills, and a smart-as-a-whip teenage daughter heading to UCLA come fall. Needless to say, he’s a man with a lot on his mind. But Frank isn’t the only soul questioning what the future may bring. His offspring, Sam Fisher, played by the always delightful Kiersey Clemons, may act like she has it all figured out, but like many teens, it’s a carefully crafted facade. Add in a blossoming “Where do we go from here?” romance with her girlfriend, and this kid has a full plate too.

Wait, is this an angst-ridden dual coming-of-age journey posing as a musical indie flick? Rest assured, it is not. … Well, maybe it is. But only in the best of ways. Sure, father and daughter butt heads over her practical aspirations and his dreams deferred, but their common ground is found in the music and with the music. And in its own special way, that common ground is the ballast they both need to weather this storm. 

The film not only features original music by Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock, who worked with director Haley and writer Basch on their other indie darling, The Hero, but it also sports a supporting cast that reminds you there are no small parts. In addition to Blythe Danner’s turn as Frank’s offbeat, yet incredibly astute mother, we’re treated to Ted Danson as Frank’s friend/barkeep confidant who lucks out with the best lines in the film. Or was it luck at all? Not to be outdone, we’re also joined by newcomer Sasha Lane and powerhouse of the stage and screen Toni Collette as the budding love interests of our daughter and father team, respectively.



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Hearts Beat Loud may not be flawless -- it treads a little close to sentimentality at times, and drags a wee bit in the fourth act -- but it is a bittersweet film that is never bitter. It could choose to languish in the message of our small business neighborhood institutions closing their doors faster than we can blink, but instead, it makes a point to assert that Frank is closing up shop because he simply doesn’t want to sell records anymore. It could choose to treat the reveal of Sam’s mother’s fate with all the melodrama such a moment could command, but instead, it treats the revelation in an understated, yet respectful manner of both the character and the audience’s ability to grasp the outcome fully without exposition. 

For those who don’t appreciate the singer-songwriter genre or the indie music scene, Hearts Beat Loud may not strike a chord. But for music lovers of any genre, the songs in the film are a cherry on top of the story sundae. They help inject purpose in our characters’ behaviors, exposing them emotionally, while at the same time grounding the film with a realistic musical journey. Plus there’s a cameo that gives the film its own moment of cool cred. 

Hearts Beat Loud was written specifically for Nick Offerman, and he carries the film fearlessly. The audience walks away wondering what took Hollywood so long to see the unique strength and unvarnished insight Offerman brings to the table. So if you’re searching for a “feel-good movie” this Father’s Day, Hearts Beat Loud will remind you why that label isn’t the kiss of death, but is instead a breath of fresh air.

Hearts Beat Loud was screened at the 2018 Montclair Film Festival, which took place April 26-May 6, 2018.  For more information on the festival visit www.montclairfilm.org




Candace Nicholson is a freelance writer, editor and blogger covering arts & culture, small business and community. When she’s not pitching magazines, editing creative genius or penning blog posts, she’s a regular contributor to LAFRA’s Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. Visit her blog at www.incandescere.com





2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
​​​​​​​Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center To Hold Free Screening of "MILK"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center will present a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505. The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers.


Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
REVIEW: "Skyscraper"
Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.






Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


FILM

Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

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