Hearts Beat Loud

 

Year: 2018
Directed by: Brett Haley
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

With ‘La La Land’ and ‘Sing Street’, we have been spoiled recently with a resurgence in movie musicals (not adapted from the stage), with original songs. ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ fits more into the ‘Sing Street’ model (along with John Carney’s other film musicals ‘Once’ and ‘Begin Again’), in that it doesn’t have full singing-and-dancing musical numbers, but rather is a quiet and gentle everyday tale, interspersed with songs. In this case, the songs arise from a father and daughter duo. Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is trying to connect with his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) in the summer before she moves away to college. The film deals with themes of change and loss; Frank is a widow and is also coping with the impending closure of the record store he has owned for nearly 20 years. Sam discovers a summer romance but knows it cannot last because of her moving away.

Of course, most of us are familiar with Nick Offerman from his iconic role as Ron Swanson in ‘Parks & Rec‘, so it is a revelation to see him as such a different character. I had not come across Clemons before, but she is a clear talent – not only as an actress, but also a singer. After blowing me away in Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’, I was really excited to see Sasha Lane again (here playing Sam’s love interest Rose) and I also cannot wait to see her in the upcoming ‘Miseducation of Cameron Post’. The small cast is rounded out by Toni Collette as Leslie (the landlady of the record store and a potential love interest for Frank), Ted Danson as Dave, a failed Broadway actor and now owner of Frank’s favourite bar, and Blythe Danner as Frank’s mother.

The film is packed full of plenty of nostalgia – for Frank’s beloved vinyl, yes, but also both Frank and Sam looking back at the time they had with Sam’s mother before she died. She had also been a singer and at least part of Frank’s insistence on Sam singing with him, is an attempt to recreate his time playing with her. Some may view Frank’s attempts to start a band with his daughter as cringey desperation; for him to finally realise his life-long dreams. However, Offerman portrays the love and pride he has for his daughter and her talent so convincingly and heart-warmingly, you believe it is an altruistic act on his part. He does seem to genuinely be doing it in order to spend as much time as possible with her before she moves away. However, she is so invested in the med school she will be starting in the autumn that she is taking summer classes to get a head start. Things are complicated when Frank puts one of the songs they’ve recorded together online and it becomes something of a viral hit.

Some may complain (as they also did with ‘Ocean’s 8′) that this film is so low-stakes that you’re not invested. Yes, it is like slipping into a warm bath that gets very slightly choppy at times, but so what? Sometimes you want something purely feel-good, that will also occasionally have you shedding a tear. It is so refreshing to see an LGBT love-story told in such a positive way. Frank is completely comfortable asking Sam if she has a new “girlfriend or boyfriend” and he couldn’t be happier about Rose. Writer-director Brett Haley asked Clemons and Lane for their input into the dialogue for the scenes between their two characters, giving the relationship a more authentic feel.

The songs featured in ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ deserve to be hits in their own right and to be in the Oscar conversation for next year, particularly as some of us are still feeling the sting of ‘Sing Street’ missing out on nominations. This film is just a lovely warm hug that features tender performances and sweet songs. It is a vulnerable portrayal of a father-daughter relationship that still feels real because it withholds from laying it on too thickly. It’s the sort of film you could confidently watch with your parents and there is something to be said for that. I sense this could be the feel-good hit of the summer and it could finally help British cinemas move on from the Shatest Growman, which can only be a good thing. Go and see it – you won’t regret it!

FIONA’S RATING:

4

 

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Year: 2018
Directed by: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, Forest Goodluck

WRITTEN BY ELENA MORGAN

When Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is discovered making out with a female classmate, she’s sent to a gay conversion therapy center called God’s Promise by her conservative aunt.

‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ balances the humour and the darkness of Cameron’s situation very well. It is a funny film with teenage characters acting like regular teenagers while having these expectations hanging over them like a dark cloud. Cameron befriends Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forest Goodluck) two “disciples” who have learned to say what the teachers at God’s Promise want to hear but don’t believe a word of it. They’re more likely to be found growing weed in the woods than reading passages from the bible. The three of them form a connection that allows them to support one another when things get tough, sometimes without saying anything at all.

Having ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ set in 1993 makes the isolation that Cameron, Jane, Adam and the rest of the young people at the center feel all the more poignant. While unfortunately there are still conversion therapy camps, the internet and social media allow the young people to be more informed and to find others who are like them in the world.

Chloë Grace Moretz gives a great yet subtle performance leading the viewer to never really know whether she’s buying into what Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) are preaching or if she’s still convinced that what she feels isn’t wrong like they say. Dr. Marsh’s explanation for the SSA (same-sex attraction) that Cameron and the others feel, can be convincing and there are times where it appears Cameron doubts her own mind and feelings.

Reverend Rick is a tragic character as he’s someone that has apparently worked past his SSA and is something of a role model for the teenagers. But, he’s just as lost and unsure as the rest of them but must appear to know all the answers. Rick seems like a nice guy, and even though Lydia is overbearing and cold, you can see that she believes in what she’s doing, and that it’s the best for all involved. In reality what Cameron and the rest of the teens experience is emotional abuse, but it’s hard for Cameron to put that feeling into words.

While the subject matter of ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ can be dark and shocking, it is still a funny, coming-of-age story. It’s about young people supporting one another as they figure out themselves, and when adults won’t listen to them or trust them, they’ll forge their own path.

ELENA’S RATING:

4.5