It's nearly impossible to dislike Nick Offerman, but his dry wit and no-nonsense Ron Swanson persona that worked so well on Parks and Recreation feels out of tune with the rest of the new indie flick Hearts Beat Loud. Luckily, stunning performances from Kiersey Clemons and Toni Collette are the melody that keeps the delightfully pessimistic dramedy strumming along.
Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a failing record-store owner suffering through a hipster midlife crisis during his daughter's last summer before college. The original songs are painfully cute, but for a film that has all the elements to be the next smash indie comedy, Hearts Beat Loud is uncharacteristically sad.
And people are going to love it. The movie was a hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival and did well in limited release last week. It opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
On the surface, this story has all of the charm of every inverted Freaky Friday festival darling. Frank's daughter Sam (Clemons) desperately tries to help her dad act like an adult while Frank tries to relive his glory days vicariously through his daughter when their original song goes viral. They have similar interests, like thrifted graphic T-shirts, but ultimately, Frank is the juvenile in this father/daughter relationship.
Blythe Danner has a secondary role as Frank's shoplifting mother. She offers some genuine delight but also a lingering sense of impending sorrow at the hands of aging. The brilliant Collette (go see Hereditary, seriously) plays the landlord/love interest to Frank, but her character's development feels incomplete. Collette delivers an endearing performance but ultimately feels a little pedestrian compared to the rest of the twee-hipster cast.
Ted Danson has a nice Cheers-inspired bartender role but delivers with a little too much optimism for a character who feels like he's wearing a hardened shell. However, Sam's love interest, Rose (Sasha Lane), fits exactly into the world that writer-director Brett Haley has created. Their summer fling is given the least amount of screen time, but every moment feels sincere, and the chemistry is palatable.
Hearts Beat Loud consistently plays as a rhythm, but never quite takes the lead. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. The stakes never feel very high, but the feel-good sensibility is quickly washed away when you realize Offerman is about to be left very, very alone when his daughter finally leaves for college.
The film's saving grace comes from the original songs by Keegan DeWitt. Clemons' voice is absolutely stunning, and the joy expressed by the father/daughter duo is impossible not to love. The musical performances are so masterful, it makes you forget the very real troubles of Frank's life — because, in the end, we're all more like Frank than we'd ever admit.