At a pivotal point in this film about a father-daughter duo, the daughter asks the father to grow up, putting his ambitious yet impractical self aside to think about their future. This struck me as a rather unusual plot point in this largely subversive musical-comedy-drama. You see, more often than not, when we encounter a film about musicians and artists, we see young, optimistic artists, with a penchant to thrive in the music industry, only dissuaded by the cynicism of the elders around them. These stories then become either about tragically failed careers or about success against all odds.
But “Hearts Beat Loud” chooses to tread a different line, telling a typical tale rather originally. In a quaint corner of Brooklyn, Frank Fisher, a record store owner is about to close his business. His daughter, Sam, is about to join pre-med school. Their evenings involve jamming with each other in their apartment, making random music. At first, both are pragmatic, treating music as nothing more than a past time, a way to de-stress after a long day.
But when his daughter records a sample of an inspiring original song, Frank sees a spark in her, urging her to complete the recording. He even sneaks it onto Spotify without her knowledge. When it starts garnering hits and the interest of record labels, he starts aspiring big - a full album contract, a tour, the works. But the daughter rejects his propositions, adamant about staying grounded. She doesn’t think there is a career in music for her, choosing instead to focus on med school.
There is a larger piece to be written about the emergence of quality comedy cinema in the 21st century. It is almost a genre in itself - one that does not confine itself to traditional genres like farce or screwball. Films in this genre masterfully avoid several pitfalls - of storyline fatigue, character banality, context unoriginality, representation and portrayal problems, and unenthusiastic tone. Beyond all this, these films, most importantly, get the jokes and writing right. But to cap it all off, these films don't take themselves too seriously, or else, they wouldn't be comedies after all. Comedies need to be fun, and these movies are, while being just good cinema in the first place.
Olivia Wilde's "Booksmart" exemplifies this kind of cinema. The very short way to describe this film would be to say that it is very good and a lot of fun. But then, that would be disrespectful. The movie’s good parts are a lot of fun for even the casual enthusiast of cinema. The movie’s fun parts get some of the best execution of the moment.
In modern cinema, the most definitive depiction of platonic love, of affection and understanding, is from that scene in "Lost in Translation" where Bill Murray whispers something in Scarlett Johansson's ear. Then their characters part ways, possibly forever. It is a simple frame that says so much about them and their relation, without saying too much. Two decades before "Lost in Translation", a similar frame occurred in cinema, in Louis Malle's heartfelt "Atlantic City". It portrayed a different set of people, in a relation that is very different in nature yet similar in depth. It too, says so much about the people involved without saying too much.
The scene involves a scintillating Susan Sarandon (as Sally) and a charming Burt Lancaster (Lou), also parting ways, possibly forever. Sally works as a waitress at a lobster bar, while training to be a blackjack dealer at a casino. She is the aspirational kind, who has escaped small town Canada, with dreams of living and working in Monaco. On the other hand, it is hard to tell what Lou does for a living. He seems to have retired from a nefarious past life, but still wants to hang on to whatever little glories it might have afforded him. Lou runs small-time numbers games as well as all kinds of errands for an old widow named Grace (a hilarious and energetic Kate Reid). All the while, he steals odd things from her and sells them for pocket change. It is hard to tell where his profession ends and his transgressions begin. Yet, he is not vile, which makes one almost imagine him making a lot more money, if he were not so nice or kind.
Amidst all their distractions and deviations, the film brings Sally and Lou together, thanks to chance and Lou's enterprise. They fall into some money, and also, supposedly in love.
Atlantic City says so much about two people in a relationship, without saying too much.
A comedy that is fun, while being just good cinema in the first place.