Never underestimate a film that can leave you with a warm feeling on the inside. Crowd pleasing cinema is like chicken soup…it’s just good for you. Brett Haley is a master at this. The writer/director has been forging an incredibly underrated career, one that a few decades ago would have made him an A-list auteur. Regardless, he’s sure to get his due this week, as his latest movie Hearts Beat Loud is about to open. A hit at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, it’s one of the year’s best films, bar none. Emotional and warm in the way a fantastic hug can be, this is a cinematic experience that may well take your breath away.
A music fill dramedy, Hearts Beat Loud tells the story of a Brooklyn based father and his daughter in the summer before the latter leaves for college. In a matter of almost magical alchemy, they’ll end up forming an unlikely songwriting duo, but at the start, they’re just two people who have long bonded with music. Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is the owner of a struggling record store in Red Hook, while Sam Fisher (Kiersey Clemons) is dealing with first love and preparing for med school out on the west coast. Then, during one of their long running jam sessions, sessions that Sam almost does now to humor Frank, they come up with a catchy tune. Written by Sam in the spark of first love, Frank sees the talent that he knows she possesses. One upload to the internet later and their music is on Spotify. From there, a whole new level of father/daughter bonding occurs. It’s just a complete delight to witness Haley directs and co-writes here with frequent collaborator Marc Basch. The strong supporting cast includes Toni Collette, Blythe Danner, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, and more. The music is by composer Keegan DeWitt, who has been snubbed by Oscar in Best Original Song before. That finally might not happen again this year, but more on that a little bit later in this piece…
I just want to hug this film can never let it go. From the performances by Clemons and Offerman to the songs written by DeWitt, it’s all just emotional, full of positivity, and infectiously joyful. It all goes down under the watchful eye of Haley, who is a master of getting his intended reaction out of an audience. Like an expert conductor, the musical sequences put a lump in your throat and match your own heart’s rhythm to the sounds on the screen. It’s dynamic and oddly profound. The mixture here is damn near perfect. Without question, this is one of the year’s best films.
Haley deserves to be a directing star. I’ll See You In My Dreams, The Hero, and now this suggest someone with an Oscar in their future. At the very minimum, he should be an Academy Award nominee before long. The talent is just so clearly on display. The subtle confidence evident in his work is a sight to behold. Wherever Haley goes next with his career, I know I’ll be eagerly following. Hearts Beat Loud is further proof that we have a genius working in a very specific arena. Had he been starting out in the late 80’s or early 90’s, he could have been Cameron Crowe. That’s how on point he is. Once you see the work, you’ll understand.
If this were a perfect world, Hearts Beat Loud would be a huge Oscar contender. Frankly, distributor Gunpowder & Sky should launch a big campaign anyway, putting forth efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Haley), Best Actor (for Offerman), Best Actress (for Clemons), Best Supporting Actor (for Danson), Best Supporting Actress (for Collette and/or Lane), Best Original Screenplay (for Basch and Haley), and Best Original Song. Realistically, it’s Original Song or bust, with an outside chance that Original Screenplay gets some attention early on in the precursor season. Haley deserves recognition from voters, while DeWitt straight up deserves a statue. If members of the Academy are paying attention, he should at least become a nominee for this flick.
In just a few days, Hearts Beat Loud will be out in cinemas, offering up the sort of entertainment we just don’t get enough in 2018. No matter who you are, this film offers up something to put a smile on your face. The movie works in a big bad way. Even if the Academy doesn’t take to it, audiences will. This should wind up an audience favorite, with cult classic status or better well within reach. Especially if you’ve enjoyed one of Haley’s previous works, you owe it to yourself to seek this one out. It’s church for musical fans. You’re all in for a treat…
Be sure to check out Hearts Beat Loud, in theaters starting this weekend!