While Frank drives the plot of the film, and Offerman is fun and affecting in a teddy bear role that’s far way from his Ron Swanson iconic character, Clemons carries much of the emotional impact. She gives a star-making performance in a Jill-of-all-trades role. Notable in sidekick parts in films like Dope and Neighbors 2, Hearts Beat Loud shows off her playfulness, heartsickness, exasperation, a convincing wisdom beyond her years, and complete mastery of the pregnant pause. The film requires in inverted parent-child relationship, and she is able to be the former around Frank and the latter around peers, particularly Sasha Lane’s Rose. It’s a performance that assures the viewer that the character is going to do well in life while not being overly precocious or unrecognizable. The singing scenes, which Clemons did herself, are also brimming with passion, such that it’s easy to see why Frank thinks there could be something to their band. She’s making her pitch to Hollywood with Hearts Beat Loud for a romance, a family drama, a sing-along musical, and all three at the same time plus whatever else is available.
Aiding Clemons and Offerman are the script and the supporting cast. Haley and co-writer Marc Basch wisely avoid that hacky trope of forcing characters to relitigate old events for the sake of exposition. When Sam cuts her father off when an argument goes down a particular path, her face and his surrender says more than unnatural dialogue could ever say. The writers also don’t manufacture conflict where none is required: the bittersweet nature of this family and the universal changes that are looming over them are enough. Between the naturalistic script and actors like Toni Collette, Blythe Danner, Lane, and Ted Danson playing against Offerman and Clemons, the viewer is satisfied to simply watch everyone in conversation with each other.
Hearts Beat Loud is a can’t miss crowd pleaser, a worthy homage to Carney’s classics. It’s a small and highly enjoyable trifle that should place Clemons on a permanent career upswing. The songs are good enough that I’ve searched them out on youtube, and Offerman makes his Ron-Swanson-doing-puzzles face. What’s not to like? B