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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hearts Beat Loud is a charming, music-driven, coming-of-age tale in which the parent is the one who has to grow up. It follows a widower named Frank (Nick Offerman) who's trying to hold on to his college-bound daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), in the face of unpleasant life transitions. The result is a role-reversal: Smart Sam makes more responsible choices than her father, who drinks (sometimes to excess), curses (words include "s--t," "hell," and more), and hangs out with an aging pothead bartender. But Frank and Sam have a loving, respectful relationship, even when they disagree, and the movie has clear themes of humility and communication. Sam and her girlfriend kiss quite a bit, including making out on a bed. Frank's mother is showing signs of dementia, and he's dealing with how to best keep her safe while also letting her have independence. It can sometimes feel like the idea of the film is to sell the music – which may be the case, given that streaming music service Spotify is cast as a bit of a hero.
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What's the story?
In HEARTS BEAT LOUD, the summer before Sam Fisher (Kiersey Clemons) is set to move across the country to attend UCLA's pre-med program, her widower father, Frank (Nick Offerman), is shaken up by less exciting life changes: His record store is going out of business, his mother's (Blythe Danner) dementia is worsening, and his nest is about to be completely empty. While Sam wants to focus on all things medicine, Frank wants her to embrace her musical DNA (Frank and his late wife were recording artists). During their father-daughter "jam sesh," Frank records their original song and secretly uploads it to a music streaming service; the track quickly gains popularity and opens doors to a music career. In the meantime, Sam starts a romantic relationship with a young woman named Rose (Sasha Lane) and must decide whether she should pursue a college degree all alone on the West Coast or stay in New York with her girlfriend and follow her parents' dream, which just might be hers, too.
Is it any good?
This is a likable dramedy that, at times, feels like a feature-length music video. The generous amount of screen time in Hearts Beat Loud given to writing, performing, and hearing the hooky title single seems suspiciously like promotion. On the other hand, aspiring musicians may appreciate witnessing how a song comes together in a story-driven manner.
Offerman (best known for Parks and Recreation) shows an expanded range here, playing a widower who's about to lose his daughter to college, his aging mother to Alzheimer's, his record store to failure, and his rock star dreams to reality. And Clemons reveals substantial music chops performing tunes (by Keegan DeWitt) that are truly catchy. The actors' chemistry is so natural and familiar, with moments of unarticulated subtext, that viewers never doubt for a moment that they're father and daughter. Their relationship is admirable in many ways, and parents may find themselves wistfully falling for the fantasy of literally making beautiful music with their child, just as they're fleeing the nest. Teen audiences will likely revel in a young character who often acts like the adult in the family -- and relate to the embarrassment of finding yourself in a band with your parent.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages and role models in Hearts Beat Loud. What is the film saying about family? What makes Sam a role model? What character strengths does she exhibit? What role do humility and communication play in the story?
Frank uploads Sam's song to Spotify without her permission. Is that an invasion of privacy? When parents post their children's photos and performances on social media, which actions cross a line?
When choosing a career path, people may have to choose between their creative, intellectual, and practical talents. How would you decide whether a particular skill set is better utilized in a career or as a hobby?
- In theaters: June 8, 2018
- Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Toni Collette
- Director: Brett Haley
- Studio: Gunpowder & Sky
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Communication, Humility
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some drug references and brief language
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