Tag Archives: Marc Basch

I’ve Got the Music in Me

Hearts Beat Loud

by Rachel Lewis

Director Brett Haley and co-writer Marc Basch have crafted a tender story of a father and daughter who spend a last summer together bridging their differences through a shared love of music.

Nick Offerman is charming as Frank, a man who’s never outgrown his dream of being a musician. Though his days are spent behind the counter of a record store, he wishes for something bigger. It’s his daughter, Sam (Kersey Clemons, from Dope and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), who is the family’s realist. Her goal is to go to college and become a doctor. The conundrum is that Sam has talent. A lot of it. Upon discovering how much talent Sam has during a family “jam sesh”, Frank’s dreams are reignited. 

Much time is spent on the music itself. We watch as songs are written, revised, practiced, and recorded. These original tunes, written by Keegan DeWitt, are effective at highlighting the film’s themes, and the title song is catchy enough to stay in your head long after the credits roll.  

The problem with this amount of attention on the music is that other areas of the film suffer for it. The relationships between characters are thin. We’re told there’s history present, but we never feel it. If the focus was kept on Frank and Sam, rather than expanding their world to include romantic relationships and a grandmother who adds little to the story, the audience connection might have gained more strength. As it is, we’re told to care about characters who have little dialogue and next to no screen time. Though this imbalance exists, the actors do their best with what they have.

There is a sweetness to the film, and Frank’s excitement is so contagious, Sam’s lack of enthusiasm is painful next to it. It’s a touching portrayal of a father and daughter who’ve grown apart, but find a way to reconnect. Terse conversations deepen as musical bridges are hammered out, with memories brought to the surface and shared through poetic lyrics. Moments that reveal pieces of the past are subtle, yet striking.

There’s much to like about Hearts Beat Loud, even if it does rely too much on the music to carry it. 


This Dude Abides

The Hero

by Hope Madden

Somebody finally wrote a starring role for Sam Elliott. Let’s be honest, we all love him. What’s not to love? His lived-in masculinity, mannered charm and sonorous delivery make every line a comic/dramatic/romantic dream.

His latest film, the Brett Haley directed and co-penned The Hero, feels like an attempt to give Elliott his own The Wrestler or Crazy Heart.

I’m cool with that.

Haley was responsible for the 2015 life-renewing romance I’ll See You In My Dreams, a post-middle-age adventure starring Blythe Danner, with Elliott joining as her mustachioed gentleman caller.

With Hero, Haley places Elliott firmly in the lead of another “life begins when you decide it does” kind of story.

In a role undoubtedly written specifically for the actor, Elliott plays an aging performer who’s knocked around Hollywood for decades but is best known for his deep, cowboy voice. The film opens with that memorable baritone recommending, “Lone Star barbeque sauce – the perfect pardner for your chicken.”

It’s an inspired scene, full of humorous indignity and carried beautifully by the voice-over veteran. It’s really a shame Haley can’t build on it.

Elliott’s Lee Hayden has cause to reevaluate his life when a health issue, a lifetime achievement award, a viral video and a surprising new girlfriend all collide unexpectedly. Oh, so many reasons to contemplate your own mortality.

Elliott’s quiet, moseying way remains as enigmatic and charming as it ever has been, and seeing him play a character so very close to himself is sometimes eerie. Real-life wife Katharine Ross even plays his ex.

The film scores highest marks in two scenes with Ross, and in everything with a delightful Nick Offerman, playing against type as Lee’s goofy former co-star and current weed dealer.

It derails hardest, though, when it tries to juggle a distant relationship with a daughter (Krysten Ritter) and a new romance with a hot, much younger woman (Laura Prepon).

The Hero breaks no new ground. Had Haley and co-writer Marc Basch (who also co-wrote Dreams) thrown one or two fewer contrivances at us, or found perhaps a fresher way to contend with their obvious choices, they might have had something.

Instead they ride Elliott’s charm and settle for sentimentality, which is such a shame. It’s high time Sam Elliott gets to lead his own movie, but he deserves a little more than this.