A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Heartbeats is a drama about Kelly (Krystal Ellsworth), a young dancer who falls in love with Aseem (Amitash Pradhan) -- and a new form of dance -- in India. The romance between the two is very mild: They exchange longing looks, dance together, and have a couple of brief kisses. Violence is also mild: One character is chased by men he wronged (he says they want to "kick my ass"); later, their quarrel is solved nonviolently and positively. Two rivals push and punch each other in a dance club; another man threatens someone by saying he has a relative who can "hurt" him. Language includes "bulls--t," "ass," "a--hole," and a few scenes in which a 12-year-old girl curses, which viewers are supposed to find cute (e.g., "Pack your s--t -- you just got a free trip to India, bitch"). There are also a couple of classist insults, like when a villain calls a rival a "villager" and a "slum dog." A man having an emotional conversation with his wife admits to having been drinking.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
HEARTBEATS centers on Kelly (Krystal Ellsworth), a young American hip-hop dancer whose troubled relationship with her family takes a turn when they travel to India to attend a wedding. During the week-long celebration, Kelly meets Aseem (Amitash Pradhan), a dancer hired for the wedding. The pair fall in love while he shows her Mumbai and they teach each other new dance styles. But when the wedding is over, will their romance be, too?
Is it any good?
Things pep up whenever a dance number starts in this so-so cross-cultural romance meets musical, but they spiral downward anytime the actors have to talk to each other. Dance movies, which require actors who can handle both dialogue and complicated choreography, are tough to cast -- and although some of the supporting cast members have both charm and dance game, star Ellsworth is absolutely wooden off the dance floor. The clichéd storyline doesn't help: A young woman wants to follow her dreams of dancing professionally, while her parents want her to go to college and prepare for a more secure career. (We're clearly supposed to root for the dreamer, but knowing what we know about careers in the arts, it might be easier for many adults to side with the parents who are trying to set their daughter up for a more stable life.)
On the plus side, Heartbeats' India-filmed visuals are gorgeous. Viewers might be tempted to turn their sound down -- all the better to avoid hackneyed dialogue -- and focus instead on beautiful images of open-air markets, swirling saris, flocks of birds circling over a shoreline, and the color and glamour of an upscale Indian wedding. You'll see a sangeet (the traditional song-and-dance prelude to many weddings in India), watch street food being prepared, and glide through chaotic Mumbai streets in lyrically beautiful scenes. If you're watching at home, feel free to fast-forward past the scenes when actors are talking to each other -- there are no surprises; you know exactly where each storyline is going and you won't miss anything -- and focus on the dance and Mumbai scenery. That's where the real pleasures of this movie lie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why dramas are often built around young or otherwise disadvantaged characters who have big dreams. What dramatic possibilities do they hold? Why do you think these types of dramas tend to focus on young people? Do dreams have an age limit?
Some of the characters in Heartbeats are obviously played by dancers who aren't trained actors. Do you think the dancing scenes are more important than the acting scenes?
What is the movie's message about life in the arts, particularly dance? Is it an easy life or a hard one? Is Kelly's success likely to be lucrative or long-lasting?
- In theaters: March 20, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: March 28, 2018
- Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Paul McGillion, Justin Chon, Krystal Ellsworth
- Director: Duane Adler
- Studio: Freestyle Digital Media
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Arts and Dance
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and thematic elements
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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