Assuming director Bill Pohlad and his writers (Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner) have accurately depicted the difficult, tormented journey of the brain behind The Beach Boys…how sad.
Love & Mercy is a special film.
If you love music, and the artist’s process of creating it, this film is for you.
Much like the underrated James Brown bio-pic, Get on Up, Love & Mercy manages to look behind the curtain, even if just a little, into the unique gift some artists have to simply hear things differently and then follow that instinct to creation.
Both films also demonstrate the torment and tumult that often goes with that singular vision.
Music is, after all, an industry. Or at least that’s what artists are so often lectured.
Using the unconventional device of casting two adult actors to play the same role (Paul Dano as the younger Brian Wilson, John Cusack as the older), Love & Mercy is an extremely thoughtful examination of a gifted artistic mind in the midst of chaos, both inner psychological and external gravitational.
The film is at its very best when it shows the younger Wilson in the studio fleshing out his process and creating the unique sounds that came to be known, ultimately ironically, as The Beach Boys.
“We’re not surfers,” an exasperated Wilson pleads to his band mates in one of the film’s many scenes about commerce and vision. “Real surfers don’t even listen to us.”
Love & Mercy also soars emotionally when the camera lands on Cusack and the talented Elizabeth Banks in a handful of touching and heart-felt scenes about Wilson’s struggle with being over-medicated and cut off from his ability to connect with others and function independently. Director Pohlad shows just the right touch here, letting the actors work in long, sustained close-ups, allowing us to sit quietly with the somber circumstances of the life of Wilson’s imprisoned mind.
All three actors, Dano, Cusack, and Banks will be favorites for Oscar nominations. Paul Giamatti might join them as well after his wicked performance as the power-hungry Dr. Eugene Landy, the man who was ultimately sued and taken to the woodshed for his handling of the fragile “pop star.”
As the end credits roll, we are treated to a recent Brian Wilson concert and the title song, Love & Mercy.
Again, just the right touch.