Weed In Art: HEARTS BEAT LOUD

The Weed In Art series analyzes depictions of, well, weed in art.


The way weed’s treated in Hearts Beat Loud reflects both the positives and negatives of this new musical movie.

Which, as an aside for the record, is not the same as a movie musical. Though I’m not much of a stickler for defining genres — art should be about expanding the envelope that is our conceptions of it, so who am I…nay, ANYONE to try to limit its bounds through inherently-reductive terminology — the narrative of musicals, be it one of emotions, character arcs, themes, etc., should be primarily forwarded by the music.

Hearts Beat Loud, on the other hand, merely contains a handful of musical performances, which A) are by far the best moments of the whole shebang, and thus B) the paucity of them proves to be the second biggest problem in this consequently lopsided affair.

Its treatment of weed speaks to the main holder of that unfortunate distinction. Ted Danson plays, as always, Ted Danson, playing a successful bar owner who enjoys a toke every now and then, and by now and then I mean literally right now and then also right now and then another right now and then one more right now and then wait we got another right now and surprise surprise yet another right now and so on and so forth.

You’d never guess, but his habitual imbibing winds up on the butt end of a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of predictable jokes, often casting him as the clownish buffoon who has only one interest and that interest is smoking.

After he’s first introduced, it definitely feels like he’s going to be yet another conventional choice in a movie littered with them. A father and daughter bond over starting a band? Never heard that plot synopsis before!

But after setting itself up as the usual sort of crowd pleaser that succumbs to its lowest common denominator aspirations — which often creates an air of manipulation —  Hearts Beat Loud ultimately investigates ideas that enlighten more than most outings like this; its unexpectedly and satisfyingly resonant ending avoids tired cliches, a far cry from its basic bitch setup. This praise must also be showered upon the game-changing performances of Nick Offerman — a career-high for him — and relative newcomer Kiersey Clemons — who has sooooome career ahead of her — both of whom excavate their characters’ emotional psyches to a degree that far surpasses the depth of Brett Haley’s writing and direction.

Similarly, Ted Danson’s character boasts equally-resonant multitudes that forsake his initial caricature of a demeanor (case in point: his wardrobe consists of exclusively Hawaiian shirts…really?). Unlike typical depictions of the Green Devil, at least Danson is actually a successful business owner who — wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles — doesn’t let his love affair with the ganj prevent him from leading a productive life. It’s almost like they’re not mutually exclusive; who woulda thunk it?!

But more seriously — well…a little more — it’s even more impressive, and legitimately refreshing, that Danson spends much of the movie blazed out of his mind…yet still occupies almost an avuncular role within the landscape of the characters, dispensing heartfelt, intelligent, and clear-minded wisdom through the proverbial haze.

The good probably outweighs the bad on this one, and by this one I’m referring to both the movie and its portrayal of Mary Jane.

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