There are precious few ways to grow old in rock & roll music, fewer ways still to grow old gracefully. Longtime readers of Pencilstorm will be painfully familiar with me grousing about this fact in past blogs: for every whip-crack, spark-spitting Joan Jett & the Blackhearts gig, playing their hearts out at the likes of the terribly-unforgiving Obetz Zucchini Festival, there’s a dispirited, not-even-going-through-the-motions Blue Oyster Cult appearing at a Q-FM Wing Zing, looking (and, in fact, PLAYING) like insurance salesmen, not like the Dark Princes of Heavy Metal they were when I loved ‘em in the 1970’s.
And don’t even get me STARTED on Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey of The Who.
Anyway, the movie I caught over the weekend at the Drexel (and – let’s face facts – wouldn’t you much rather see a movie at the Drexel than the Gateway?) (Actually Ricki, I prefer the Gateway - Colin) Hearts Beat Loud, addresses that exact topic of Growing Old With Rock & Roll. (Not coincidentally the title of my old blog, 2012-2013.)
In Hearts Beat Loud, Nick Offerman (apparently from Parks & Recreation, a TV show I never saw a single episode of) plays Frank Fisher, a 40-something Brooklyn record store owner and widowed father of 17-year old Sam, played by Kiersey Clemons, who is simply incredible in this movie, and whom I would like to think is somehow related to Clarence & Jake Clemons from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, but she probably isn’t.
There’s really not much plot to the film: dad & (reluctant) daughter write & record a song together at home, which becomes a hit of sorts on Spotify (whatever THAT is, I’m 66 frickin’ years old, I have never ONCE listened to a song online, maybe Colin can fill in the blanks here). But the plot is not really the selling point of this movie, it's the PERFORMANCES – from Offerman & Clemons, from (of all people) Ted Danson, from Toni Collette & Blythe Danner, and from the heartbreaking Sasha Lane, playing Sam’s love interest - that propel the picture. (I have to credit director Brett Haley - who I've never even HEARD of - and his co-writer Marc Basch for pulling out performances this consistently brilliant from his cast.) (Also, I calculate that the budget for this movie was probably IN EXCESS of $137.50. I bet the producers of The Avengers spent more on DONUTS for the special-effects crew than the entire budget for this superlative flick.)
I’m a connoisseur of rock & roll movies (for a semi-complete rundown, check out The Best of Everything, part two in Growing Old With Rock & Roll), and lemme tell ya, for every masterwork like Almost Famous or Rock & Roll High School, there is always a The Runaways or Begin Again lurking around the corner. And I’ve gotta say, Hearts Beat Loud is THE BEST r&r movie I’ve seen since 2016’s Sing Street or 2009’s Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges.
Hearts Beat Loud actually shares a lot with the aforementioned Almost Famous. The first time I saw Almost Famous, by 45 minutes into the movie I loved it SO MUCH that I spent the rest of the film holding my breath, waiting for the writers & director to screw it up, to pull out something that would NEVER REALLY HAPPEN to a real rock & roll band, to trot out something so hokey-Hollywood that they would ruin the picture for me. And it never happened. Almost Famous was perfectly great, start to finish.
I felt exactly the same way on Sunday afternoon at the Drexel, taking in Hearts Beat Loud. I was certain they were gonna screw it up somewhere in the final half-hour (i.e. Frank & Sam wind up on the Jimmy Fallon show or at Madison Square Garden, Beyonce shows up wanting to cover their song, etc.) but they never did. It was wonderful. You should go. – Ricki C. / July 2nd, 2018
(ps. It has been pointed out to me that I never mentioned the TUNES in a music movie. The songs Offerman & Clemons perform in Hearts Beat Loud were by written by Keegan Dewitt and they were pretty great. They mighta been a little too indie-rock for this over-the-hill devotee of Mott The Hoople and The Dictators, but they were still great, and PERFECT for the film.)