Two movies about musicians travel vastly different paths
Welcome to 2019! Feels a lot like 2018, huh?
Well, good news, Binge Blog is back, and ready to comfort you as you curl into a ball and try not to cry over the state of the world. I don’t have much new to report, other than I received an Amazon Echo over the holidays and it has changed my life (never again will I have to waste time writing a shopping list), so let’s get into those sweet recs.
And since I talked about Kanopy in my last blog of 2018, I will now be including movies on that service here, by the way. We have two of them today:
“Hearts Beat Loud” (2017)
Hulu/Kanopy, rated PG-13, 97 minutes
I maybe have said this before, but I am a sucker for a good music movie.
Not musicals — though those are fine — but movies about recording artists or kids starting a band or whatever. Any movie where the main character creates music is one I am likely going to enjoy more than the average person, with a few rare exceptions.
I think it’s because I grew up a choir kid, and even though I never wrote much of my own music (I stopped drum lessons after a few months because my teacher scared me), I performed a lot, whether in school or in church.
That being said, of course I love “Hearts Beat Loud.” The film stars Nick Offerman as Frank Fisher, a failed musician going through a midlife crisis as his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) readies to leave for college and the Brooklyn record store he owns flounders in the digital age. His wife Marianne (Blythe Danner) has passed away, so he’s a single dad, and he’s scared of losing all the important things in his life at once.
In a last-ditch effort to bond with Sam, he forces her to have a jam session. Sam’s a talented singer/songwriter herself, after all. The two write a song, called — wait for it — “Hearts Beat Loud,” and Sam thinks that’s the end of it. Little does she know that Frank uploads the song to Spotify. Soon after, the song becomes a viral hit.
From there, the movie explores the relationship between father and daughter in the face of this potentially life-changing turn of events. Frank wants Sam to form a legit band with him and go on tour, essentially living out the life he never could on his own. Sam wants to be her own person while pursuing a relationship with Rose (Sasha Lane) and working out her grief over her mother’s death, grief she has held onto for far too long.
That sounds heavy, but “Hearts Beat Loud” is a sweet film, and honestly, that is either going to make or break your love for it. The main criticisms it received on release revolved around its saccharine nature. And it is sweet, and heartwarming, and optimistic in the end.
But when did those become dirty words? Where did this “dark/negative equals good, lighthearted/positive equals bad” idea come from? (My guess: “The Dark Knight,” which is a fantastic film but one from which movie studios and audiences alike took the wrong lessons.)
It’s OK for a film to be charming and put out a nice message, as long as that message is relevant today. It really is. “Hearts Beat Loud” is proof. If you put your guard down for two hours, you’ll be treated to one of the most smile-friendly movies of last year, and one with a fantastic soundtrack at its core.
(Also, Ted Dansen is extremely funny as a hippie-ish bartender, and Offerman and Clemons crush it.)
“Green Room” (2015)
Netflix/Kanopy, rated R, 95 minutes
“And now, for something completely different…”
Please don’t confuse “Green Room” with the similarly-titled film currently in awards season contention. This is a much, uh, bleaker film, though both deal with racism in their own ways.
“Green Room” has a simple premise: A progressive punk band (this is also a music movie, sort of, not really, you'll see in a second) is tricked into playing a show at a neo-Nazi skinhead club in the middle of the woods. After the show, the band is witness to a crime, and the skinheads decide the band can’t leave, lest they tell the police what happened.
The rest of the movie is the band, whose members include Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner and the late Anton Yelchin, trying to escape the titular green room (and the club at-large) with its lives. In an inspired choice, the leader of the skinheads is portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart, who is terrifying in how naturally racist sewage sounds coming out of his mouth.
That’s the movie’s trick, in the end: The actual suspense sequences are chilling, but even more so are the villains’ beliefs and tendency to “protect their own” in lieu of acting morally. Director Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin,” “Hold the Dark”) has demonstrated a propensity for setting mood throughout his career, and he does it well here. When character are trapped, you feel trapped, too.
If I have any light criticisms, they are that some characters make absolutely boneheaded decisions that no human (or group of humans) would ever make. And there is one neo-Nazi character, played by Imogen Poots, whom we’re supposed to like, but the reasons for that are ... dubious, at best.
Those things aside, “Green Room” is a taught thriller that does not overstay its welcome, and a great midnight watch.