Movie Reviews: “Hearts Beat Loud,” “Tag,” “American Animals”

By | June 30, 2018

Three films that pretty much have nothing in common except they’re all about different men assembling a team for an unusual project–whether it’s making a CD with your daughter, playing the same game of tag for thirty years, or stealing rare books from a college campus…

Hearts Beat Loud…Nick Offerman plays an ex-musician and struggling record store owner in Brooklyn who discovers his daughter (Kiersey Clemons, who’s about to leave for UCLA) has her deceased mother’s musical talents. After recording a song and posting it to Spotify–where it becomes an unlikely success–he tries to coax her into joining a band and/or creating a full album. Somewhere along the way, we pick up meandering subplots involving his flirtation with Toni Collette (typical Hollywood to have his black wife dead before scene one but devote serious time to a flirtation with Collette), struggles to keep his record store afloat, Clemons’s budding relationship with another bi-racial girl, and–best of all–the wry charm of Ted Danson as Offerman’s likable, bar-owning friend. All of it is a little ramshackle, but this is the rare movie that feels like you’re watching believable people living an actual life (that Clemons thinks about giving up UCLA for a just-started relationship with a grungy girl sounds like the type of disastrous real-life decision most horny teens would consider). And the film’s climax–the “band”‘s first performance–works magically. Grade: B+

American Animals…Ever wonder how true a “based on a true story” truly is? Well, this film expertly blends cinematic recreations of this real-life robbery crew’s crime but also splices in talking-head footage of the actual perpetrators discussing their crime years later. I can say it’s one of the most unusual heist films I’ve seen in ages–and just when you might be thinking there’s no new way to tackle this material. Well, I can guarantee you’ve never seen a movie about middle-class college kids trying to rob a library for a book of rare nature drawings while a Greek chorus of the real robbers heckle their younger selves. For that reason alone, it’s worth checking out this inventive, genre-bending deep-dive into how the American Dream can sometimes overlap with aspirational crimes. Grade: A-

Tag…This is a movie I thought I would hate, and so I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t at all. That may sound like a back-handed compliment, but the trailers made this film look like the type of smug millennial-yuppie comedy (like the unbearable but critically-acclaimed “Game Night”) I might otherwise run from. Instead, it turned out to be something a little bit older–the characters are 40 and that extra age allows the melancholy of middle-age to deepen the proceedings–and more humane than you might have ever expected. Unlike most comedies that run out of steam in the final third, this movie kicks into a higher gear in the final ten minutes, leaving you on a high note. And who doesn’t want to see Jeremy Renner (between this, “Bourne Legacy,” “Hurt Locker,” and “Wind River,” no other action actor radiates soulful cool) be the world’s best tag player while a “oh what the hell” grab-bag cast including Jon Hamm and Hannibal Buress and Isla Fisher tries to tag him? Grade: B

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