Indie Film Review “Love & Mercy”

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First, the Recap:

When one thinks of historically relevant musicians/bands, names like Hendrix, Morrison, Zeppelin, The Beatles, and many others come immediately to mind, given the myriad of influences they represent within the genres impacted by their art. Another such group was made up of 5 young men from California known as The Beach Boys, and more specifically, the musical genius in their lead singer, Brian Wilson. Such is the focus of director Bill Pohlad’s newest indie effort, and it is a work of art in itself. Diving comprehensively and effectively into two separate eras of Wilson’s life, we get a deeply moving and candid journey into the masterful yet troubled mind of both a younger and elder artist in one package.

In the 1960’s, The Beach Boys have reached their pinnacle, and young Wilson (Paul Dano), haunted by voices in his head and a muddied, abusive past, maintains it’s time to get even more creative with the musical direction of the group. Utilizing his incredible sense of imagination and singular focus, he delves into new frontiers of creativeness that baffles and frustrates his fellow bandmates, wows the studio musicians, but ultimately leads him towards a massive breakdown. Intermixed with this, we see the elder, 1980’s Wilson (John Cusack), a lonely, overly medicated, and disturbed man, falling for a woman, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) against the advice of his overly controlling psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), and struggling to find himself, past inspiration, and life itself once more.

Next, my Mind:

The sheer magnitude of dramatic content contained within the dual role performances of Dano and Cusack alone make “Love & Mercy” worth the money to see. To so deftly portray one man in two different stages in life, via two completely unique and gifted actors, and do it in such an engaging way feels almost revolutionary in its execution.  Dano’s Wilson is overtly eccentric, energetic, and highly obsessive in his youthful days, illustrating again a musical prodigy and almost universally creative mind at work, all while battling his own interrupted thoughts and childhood demons. Then to view the spectrum of Wilson’s existence later on, via Cusack, reveals a shockingly manic, mentally subdued, borderline schizophrenic man desperately reaching out to a newfound friend for some chance at normality again.

Some may find Dano’s effort in itself more invigorating than Cusack’s very much restrained delivery, but that sudden and blatant separation in Wilson’s nature is what’s necessary for the film to carry the weight of its narrative.  Strong supporting kudos have to go to Banks in her role as Melinda, a woman who literally changed Wilson’s entire life, and Giamatti, whose obtrusively shady doctor creates the high tension throughout the elder Wilson’s scenes.  Jake Abel as Mike Love also stood out well.  Hearing several classic Beach Boys songs makes the accompanying soundtrack worthwhile, as it provides the backdrop to both highlight success but almost eerily bring out the depths of a tortured, yet brilliant mind that is Brian Wilson.

As always, this is for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!



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