Frank Fisher stands behind the counter of Red Hook Records, the store he’s run in Brooklyn for 17 years, chasing off a customer who might of actually purchased an album while contemplating the fact that he’s going to have to close the shop.
At the same time, Frank’s daughter Sam, who he’s raised as a single dad since the death of her mother, is digging into some summer pre-med studies, getting ready for her move to Los Angeles to attend UCLA.
While he’s closing the store, Frank remains an aspiring musician — and he buys a bunch of gear to use, with Sam, who’s a keyboardist/sample and beat-maker and a good singer. She doesn’t want to make music with her dad, but they write a song.
So begins “Hearts Beat Loud,” a sweet father-daughter comedy/drama that, in the hands of co-writer/director Brett Haley, manages to avoid sentimentality and star-making cliche.
In doing so, it relies heavily on its stellar cast — starting with Nick Offerman (of “Parks & Recreation” fame) and Kiersey Clemons, who are both terrific in their roles and good enough musicians to propel the hook-filled songs, composed by Keegan DeWitt, that make picture almost a hipster musical.
That the film is self-consciously hip is obvious in its opening sequence — Frank is watching Tweedy video (the band of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer) with a well-curated set of cool albums on the wall racks — like Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” — in a Brooklyn store. That a vinyl shop is going out of business in Brooklyn is perhaps the hardest thing to believe about “Hearts Beat Loud.”
The remaining major characters have the perfect quirks to fit in with Frank and Sam.
Leslie, the store’s landlady (Toni Collette) is a flirtatious type, who may be leading Frank on. His best friend Dave (Ted Danson) is an old hippie bar owner, who goes to Woodstock to smoke lots of pot. Frank’s mom/Sam’s grandmother Marianne (Blythe Danner) is a veteran singer who has a shoplifting problem. And Sam’s artist friend Rose (Sasha Lane) may be more than just a friend.
Haley tells the story with a gentle ease and just enough realism for it to work. There’s nothing overly dramatic here, but there’s some drama and conflict. There are no belly laughs, but it’s funny and, unlikely many such movies, the music really feels natural.
In the most obvious way, “Hearts Beat Loud” can be seen as a companion piece to “High Fidelity,” the now 17-year-old picture set in a record store with John Cusack as the true believer in the music.
But Frank doesn’t quite have that belief — and the picture isn’t all about music. Instead, its father-daughter story takes music as its bonding mechanism to show how the pair go through some big changes in their lives and come out not as stars, but content in the most appropriate fashions.