GUNPOWDER & SKY (2018)
Director: Brett Haley
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Toni Collette, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane
Many moons and years ago, a small band from Woking, Surrey, UK dreamt of just that. Decaying a garage with the primal sounds of half-baked grunge ‘n roll, The Canootsons thrashed and pounded their way through a small staple of…interesting songs all whilst harbouring dreams of playing them across the globe. Peachey, Seymour, Miller and me, we tried but ultimately the world just wasn’t ready for the sonic assault we provided. That and we weren’t very good.
Hearts Beat Loud follows Frank Fisher (Offerman), a former musician/owner of a failing New York record store, as he continues to move on from the loss of his wife years before. His daughter, Sam (Clemons), is leaving to study pre-med on the West Coast and it’s now that Frank realises he will be alone. The shop is up for sale and his musical ambitions are a distant memory – that is until during a regular jam session with Sam, they conjure a catchy tune together that Frank excitedly shares online. Before he knows it, it’s on Spotify and played in hip local coffee bars. Sam still isn’t interested in forming a band with her father and with the store in danger – despite offers of assistance from landlord and friend Leslie (Collette) – is this the day the music died?
With its full-on indie feel, Hearts Beat Loud is as ragged as the scene itself. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just easy living. The movie has a real breezy feel to it, nothing is overblown and mawkishness is left at the door as the trappings of other musical journeys are gladly avoided. A bit part of that is casting serial-no bullshitter Nick Offerman in the lead role. His furrowed brow and unassuming attitude fit the role of Frank just perfectly, allowing for the right doses of emotion when required but always being kept in check. His excitement and fervour regarding the band (later named We Are Not A Band) was infectious and reminiscent of the good days when creating music was the only thing that mattered. Frank has the same dream-like passions we all did in our young bands and the scene with him compiling the band's grand plans for world domination was a highlight. Kiersey Clemons bounces back from Flatliners and delivers a strong performance as the headstrong daughter destined to be a doctor despite her father’s dreams. The sweet father-daughter relationship is the heart and soul of the movie and the pair’s chemistry is just great. A solid supporting cast of American Honey’s Sasha Lane, Ted Danson and Toni Collette (in her natural habitat post-Hereditary) provide the icing on the cake.
Clemons smooth vocals are paired with the music of Keegan DeWitt to create catchy, contemporary indie tunes – ones that wouldn’t sound out of a place at a vegan café somewhere. Crucially, in striving for authenticity, the band only manage to cobble together a few songs and not an entire album worth of material in the short time they rock out (though for a med student, Sam has a lot of time on her hands). That’s what makes this movie work – the need for realness. It would have been so very easy to get carried away and give the band a big, triumphant journey, however, the direction it takes and settles on is just perfect. It would have been nice to see more fallout from Frank’s constant desire to prevent his daughter from going to med school to chase his dream, but what we got was fine as it was.
Hearts Beat Loud is one of those infectious, satisfying indie gems that comes around every so often and just works on nearly every level. Sadly, that means it may not quite get the love it deserves, but for those who have enjoyed it, we’re the lucky ones. Now, where’s my guitar…
September 30th 2018