Kindness finds a moment. As the art-house audience grays and withers and works off a matinee or two a week, movies aimed toward a modest crowd of middle-aged and elderly wink across the screen for weeks at a time: consider the thoroughly comfy “The Leisure Seeker,” which has been playing for twenty-six weeks for a $3.2 million gross. More to point, let’s embrace the case of Brett Haley, whose three features have been gentle without gentility, modest yet hearty character studies with compelling, older central characters facing their daily lives, practical and fantastical: Sam Elliott in “The Hero” (2017, $4 million) and Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You In My Dreams” (2015, $7.5 million). With “Hearts Beat Loud,” Haley reaches down to middle-age to elevate the genial, charismatic forty-seven-year-old Nick Offerman as a Brooklyn widower nearing gray. Offerman, like Haley’s script, plays with directness and simplicity, yet compounds complexity with each turn of its lightly likable family drama. Frank (Offerman) is the proprietor of a down-at-heels record store and makes the most of making music with Sam, his twenty-year-old daughter (Kiersey Clemons), who meets a flame in Rose (Sasha Lane), while Frank misfires with his landlord (Toni Collette). Intimacy rushes into the story with cool command: Haley is increasingly masterful with domestic tempos. I won’t compare “Hearts Beat Loud” to John Carney’s unnervingly great “Once,” but Haley hails toward its greatest virtues: the human face, the human voice, elemental longings. The onscreen songs, composed by the ever-versatile Keegan Dewitt, make the near-musical most of the sweet canvas of “Hearts Beat Loud.” With Ted Danson, Blythe Danner. 97m. (Ray Pride)
“Hearts Beat Loud” opens Friday, June 15 at River East, Landmark Century and Century Evanston.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.