Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are a winning, inspiring father-daughter team in Hearts Beat Loud, a musically infused cinematic gem that will stand as one of this summer’s under-the-radar greats.

Frank (Offerman), a record-store owner (he sells mostly vinyl) with a gruff attitude, is dealing with tough economic times—which is not good, considering his daughter, Sam (Clemons), is about to leave for medical school. He informs his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, having a great year), that the store will be closing. Frank finds himself at a sort of spiritual crossroads.

He takes solace in his mandatory musical jam sessions with his kid. Both of them are decent-enough musicians; in fact, Sam is actually pretty damn good. She has a knack for songwriting but doubts her talents. Frank pushes her to create, marvels in what she’s able to come up with, and suggests they form a real band.

Sam pushes back, wanting to focus on the whole becoming-a-doctor thing, but Frank persists, ultimately uploading one of their demos to Spotify. He hears the song in a coffee shop one morning—and it’s a great moment. As a testament to how the face of the music industry has changed, an artist hears his music streaming on somebody’s “mix” rather than on the radio in his car. The film is somewhat of an endorsement for Spotify and vinyl.

None of this would work if the music stunk. It doesn’t—it’s good. Offerman and Clemons combine for some sweet music-making, including the film’s title track, one that is repeated often in the movie. Offerman is no Hendrix, but he handles his guitar parts with enough finesse to make you think he’s been playing for a long time, while Clemons is a natural wonder with a great voice.

It must also be said that the people in this movie have great musical taste. The soundtrack and the characters reference a who’s-who of great artists, including Ween, Animal Collective, Jeff Tweedy, Spoon and Mitski. Hearts Beat Loud is the best music-store movie since High Fidelity.

Even more inspiring than the music is a love story between Sam and new-friend Rose (American Honey’s Sasha Lane). Their relationship’s depiction surprises in that it’s allowed to happen without any discussion—it’s just two people falling in love. The film’s other love story—the bond between father and daughter and their musical adventure—is equally lovely.

Offerman, a successful comedic actor, is proving he’s also a dramatic real deal. He had a good co-starring role as a stoner in The Hero, last year’s ode to actor Sam Elliott. He also killed it as one of the McDonald brothers in The Founder. This time out, he has a starring role that allows him to show all kinds of range. The final look he gives his daughter in this movie is priceless.

As the movie’s true heart, Clemons boasts a beautiful singing voice to go with her solid acting chops. She and Offerman are strong enough here to overcome the few moments when director and co-writer Brett Haley (who also directed Offerman in The Hero) drifts into obvious territory. The material is never bad, but there are moments that could’ve been hokey if it weren’t for Clemons and Offerman making them better.

Collette, who deserves awards consideration for her barn-burning work in Hereditary, lends a lot to the film in her supporting role, including a karaoke moment that reminds us that she can sing. Also: Let it be said that it’s always great when a production can coax Ted Danson into playing a bartender.

So, yep, Hearts Beat Loud has real music, real love, and Sam Malone slinging drinks—and as a result, it’s a resounding success. If Offerman and Clemons don’t win you over here, you are a super-grouch.

Hearts Beat Loud is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

A husband and wife (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) struggling in their relationship visit a retreat on the advice of their therapist (Ted Danson)—and they make a startling discovery in one of the guest houses.

That discovery in The One I Love is beautifully clever—and plays like something from a really cool Twilight Zone episode.

Ethan and Sophie are bombing in therapy, and the therapist is not amused. He has the couple strike keys on a piano as a test of their compatibility. He asks them age-old questions, like, “Say, are you two having sex?” When it appears there’s nothing he can do to help, he hands the couple a pamphlet for a place that has worked wonders for some of his past patients.

As a last-ditch effort, the two head for the resort, where they find immediate comfort. They’ve escaped their surroundings, and can crack open a bottle of wine and try to unwind. It’s nothing that resembles a breakthrough, though, so it appears as if Ethan and Sophie might be going through the motions.

Then … the strange thing happens.

This strange thing is the basis of the whole movie, and I would be a major dickweed if I were to reveal the exact details. So, yes, I’m going to attempt to get through the rest of this review without giving away the big twist, which fuels the whole movie. The big twist propels the film into becoming one of the better romantic comedies in years—one with a big brain and strong insight. Calling The One I Love a “romantic comedy” is almost an insult, but it has romance and it is funny, so I suppose it falls into that particular genre.

Charlie McDowell has made an impressive directorial debut, utilizing a solid, brutally honest script from Justin Lader. The movie is about seeing your inner potential fully realized, and the ability to solve mutual emotional problems with self-sacrifice and compromise. It’s also about the healing powers of bacon.

Duplass is making a name for himself as an understated, offbeat romantic-comedy lead. (He starred in another great recent romantic comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed.) Ethan starts off as a sort of undercover douchebag—a mild-mannered guy who has allowed his insecurities to overtake him while committing egregious relationship errors. He’s generally unlikable, and Duplass makes Ethan’s transition seem very realistic.

Moss (best known for starring on Mad Men) has had a movie career spanning two decades, but The One I Love makes it feel like she’s just arriving. She has an arsenal of “looks” in this movie that will make many men shrink in their seats. She successfully taps into both the sinister and sweet sides of Sophie, making Sophie perhaps the most memorable character of Moss’ movie career.

I hope I’ve aroused your curiosity, because The One I Love is the sort of movie many folks in a humdrum relationship—as well as those who are single—should take the time to watch. It’s also a chance to see two performers fully embracing their illuminating characters. Prepare to laugh—but also prepare for some post-movie headaches, because your forehead is going to endure some “I should’ve done that!” palm smacks.

The One I Love is now available via video on demand and online sources, including iTunes and

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing