We’ve been heavy here with blockbusters as of late, but what of the other distinctly summer type film, the charming indie crowd-pleaser. They pop up every year at Sundance and then get moderate releases in the summer, always hoping to get that Little Miss Sunshine breakout success (if I never have to see that trailer for Boundaries again, it will be too soon), or at least carve out a decent total in counterprogramming. Of course, they often fail in this regard, but box office success isn’t everything and they make for nice little time wasters, likeable but interchangeable and formulaic.
Today’s entry comes to us from writer/director Brett Haley (the charming enough I’ll See You in My Dreams and The Hero) and quickly gets to checking off the boxes. It’s a music heavy (the realistic version of the musical) tale of a father and daughter who is heading off to school in a couple months and whose mother died when she was young as they start making music together. If your indie film-o-meter isn’t going crazy yet, it stars Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, and acclaimed character actor the city of New York, with Offerman having become an indie regular since Parks and Recreation ended, while Clemons is someone who first won me over in Dope, yet another musical indie comedic drama about a teen on the verge of college. The main setting beside NYC itself is a record store, Toni Collette (fresh off Hereditary, but of course a veteran of Little Miss Sunshine) as requisite kindly love interest, Ted Danson as the older, somewhat eccentric friend, Blythe Danner as the (grand)mother suffering from diminished capacity, and Sasha Lane (American Honey) as the love interest tempting the Clemons with all she will me missing by moving across the country (people always fly across the country for college in movies).
The music is, fine? I don’t know, it really isn’t my type of music. Clemons proved she could sing in Dope and she’s the highlight here while Offerman does well too, but composer Keegan DeWitt sure isn’t Pharrell and it all just seems like pretty standard stuff to me. There’s nothing that is going to stick with you when you leave the theater and the soundtrack selections that play throughout the store and on random YouTube videos watched just leave me cold compared to that film. That leaves it to the actors and script to inject life to it. The actors are all talented with a naturalistic chemistry. The script on the other hand plays it safe, light jokes peppered in that seem interested in getting maybe a smile out of the audience and nothing more with plenty of naval gazing that gets cringeworthy fast.
There’s not much more to say beyond that. It’s not a bad film and your enjoyment might go up if you enjoy this type of music (Mitski and Animal Collective are artists shown or bandied about for reference), but it never rises or seems to aspire above pleasant diversion. It’s destined to blend in with so many films that came before it (Band Aid being another recent film to come to mind) to become one indistinguishable mass.