Hearts Beat Loud is about a father (Frank) who runs a failing record store and decides that he wants to start a band with his daughter (Sam) who is about to go to college. Near the beginning of the movie, Frank is looking over lyrics that Sam wrote. When he asks about them, she says that they don’t mean anything to which he replies that they have feeling and don’t need to mean anything. This is a very good way to describe the movie itself. It had little meaning and went directly for eliciting empty emotions. While there may be an argument that this can work for music, (personally, I would say that it doesn’t) it most certainly does not work for films. Hearts Beat Loud was a poorly written, tacky mess that not even Nick Offerman could save.
To start, the relationship between Sam and her girlfriend Rose was pointless. We got no development of their relationship, they just ended up together with with no explanation of why. Also, there weren’t many scenes of them together and Rose didn’t bring out anything in Sam’s character. They didn’t even have any conflict. The movie tried to add conflict between them when Sam says she wrote a song about the complexities of their relationship, but this is never brought up again or explained, and every scene that Sam and Rose are in together they are perfectly happy with each other. There was also a rainbow flag in the bar that Frank would go to, so I did wonder whether or not the movie was trying to make some statement about homosexual relationships. Perhaps it was trying to make a homosexual relationship just as normal as a heterosexual one, which could have been great. However, because of the lack of effort put into actually writing, the only message that really comes across is that films can force in meaningless same-sex relationships as easily as they can heterosexual ones. There was also a forced in love interest for Frank that was just as bad. Frank is shown to have an interest in his landlord. There is never a relationship between them, which would be fine, but his interest in her went nowhere and was never developed. In fact, the only reason it seems to be in the movie is for a pointless scene where Frank gets mad at the woman he likes because he thinks she might be romantically involved with her guy friend who has only been shown twice in the film. After this scene Frank is only interested in her as a friend, and the idea that he might have wanted more isn’t confronted again.
Other than the under developed relationships, the entire movie felt like it was lazily written. Very little is said about Sam’s mother. We learn late in the film that she died in a bicycle accident, but then is never talked about again, making me wonder why it was in the movie at all. At the beginning of the film Sam is set up as being a devoted student who is taking a summer class that she really enjoys. However, we only see this within the first few minutes though, and then the summer class is never mentioned again. We stop seeing Sam doing homework, and just see her writing songs, even though she is still telling everyone she is more devoted to her education than the music. At the very end, Sam brings up that she might not go to college and will instead be in the band with Frank, but in the very next scene she has gone to college with no explanation of why she left.
With its focus on the art and music scene, and its setting in an ocean side city with a very hipster vibe, the movie felt like it was engineered to pander to a specific audience. This may have worked had it also put forth the effort to have a strong message. Hearts Beat Loud is one movie that I hope continues to fly under the radar for most people.