Love & Mercy (2015): The Life, Love, and Genius of Brian Wilson

Posted: July 6, 2015 in Biography, Drama, Music

215116Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were one of the biggest bands in the US in the 60s. With Beatlemania started to take over, Brian decides that he wants to avoid getting on another plane for a world tour and instead stay at home and continue to write more inventive and creative music. While working with a whole new assortment of musicians and sounds, Brian seems to be flourishing without the restraints of the sound that made the group famous. When the rest of the guys return they start to realize that something is not quite right with their brother. Years after the disbanding of the band, Brian is struggling and being handled by a therapist. Even with his life being regimented, Brian is able to make an impression on an ex-model-turned-car saleswoman and fall in love. Melinda does not realize it at first, but she slowly begins to feel like she needs to save Brian from a seemingly dark existence.

This bio-pic helped bring to life the sad but amazing story of the seemingly star-crossed musician. While Bill Pohland worked to tell two stories interwoven through the length of the film, the true success of the film was in its actors playing Brian Wilson. John Cusack played the older version of Brian, including most of the more listless and helpless scenes between the older and younger versions of himself. Overmedicated and mishandled, Cusack was able to project a quiet light through his performance to help connect to a real care for the musician. Paul Dano was truly inspirational with his performance. He had to put together a character that was complex in his blending of genius, love, sadness, and mental instability. Elizabeth Banks (Melinda Ledbetter) was enjoyable as a hero in Brian’s life. Paul Giamatti (Dr. Eugene Landy) truly made you fearful for whether the film would portray something different from the already tragically beautiful life of Brian Wilson.

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The film helped to connect the audience with some of the real challenges with mental illness. Brian was a musical genius, but no one around him seemed to know what to do with his eccentric and erratic behavior. During his musical prime, his melancholy music failed to catch nearly as much of an audience as their more pop rock-oriented hits. His bandmates were surprised by what he produced and could not come to agreement with whether they could hang in with his more doleful themes. While the film did not show his official fall out of the group and the time during his bedridden state, it fast-forwarded to his struggles under the “care” of Dr. Landy. While his cohort mostly seemed to support Landy’s management of Brian’s life, Melinda started to serve as an avenue to potentially save Brian’s future. Her love for him ended up being stronger than Landy’s selfish management of the former star’s life.

The film has a few small moments of disjointed transitions but even the artistic moments mostly blend well in the storytelling. The true gem was Paul Dano and his name will come back into conversation around award season.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5


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