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  • Anyone who knows me knows my favorite band is The Beach Boys, and my favorite musician is their leader, Brian Wilson. I first got deep into their music last November when I heard their album SMiLE, an album which wasn't officially released until 45 years after its conception and recording. It was worth the wait, as I consider it the best album I've ever heard.

    I found out that a biopic of Wilson was in the works, and would be screening at SXSW with Wilson in attendance. I knew I had to go and see this film. The experience is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life as one of the most emotionally powerful events I have been a part of.

    Love and Mercy is the story of The Beach Boys' founder Brian Wilson. The film chronicles his rise to fame in the 1960's and the his decline into mental illness, and his escape from the control of his therapist in the 1980's.

    Paul Dano plays Wilson in the 1960's, and John Cusack plays him in the 1980's. It also stars Elizabeth Banks as Wilson's future wife, Melinda Ledbetter, and Paul Giamatti as his therapist, Eugene Landy.

    Paul Dano exudes the boyish look of young Wilson perfectly. He relearned how to play piano for the role, and sings much of the music in the film.

    His performance is hard to watch at times because of how depressing it is seeing him devolve from an energetic, fun young man into a tortured, drained artist. Dano handles the role with passion and care, and his performance never feels forced or fake.

    When Wilson begins to suffer a panic attack, anyone who's had one will feel deeply for him. When he starts to have physical symptoms of depression after years of physical and mental abuse from his father and disapproval of his musical direction from fellow band mate Mike Love, Dano portrays the hurt that comes from those events with subtle facial expressions and natural transition.

    John Cusack looks less like Wilson physically, but his performance may be even more complex. His Wilson has been to the bottom, and he brilliantly portrays how challenging it is to rebuild your life after going through mental and physical anguish.

    Elizabeth Banks has a great departure from her more well known comedic film roles, and as Ledbetter, she shows her strength and respect for the man she loves through actions and subtle expressions instead of overt, over the top dialog.

    Paul Giamatti has the most campy role in the film as Eugene Landy, but this is unfortunately how Landy was in real life. He was as violent and controlling over Wilson's life as the movie portrays, so his abusive, manipulative, angering performance is highly accurate.

    One of the best things about Love and Mercy is that it doesn't exaggerate or make up events to make the film more interesting. The filmmakers trust the strength of its source material is interesting enough to make for a great story.

    The storytelling structure of the movie is interesting and risky. The film jumps from the 60's to the 80's without warning, and it works. The slightly askew technique allows the audience to experience the downfall and uprising of Wilson's life simultaneously, and allows the movie to end on a happy note.

    One complaint people have is that the film skips over the 1970's, Wilson's most tumultuous period in which he weighed 300 pounds and spent the majority of three years in bed, crippled by depression and drug addiction. However, this allows the audience to examine the reasons for his downfall and redemption instead of indulging in the horrible escapism Wilson turned to.

    Beach Boys fans will appreciate the movie more than the average film-goer. Mike Love in hats, dancing, and mentioning "the formula"? Check. Drug tent and piano in the sandbox in Wilson's living room? Check. The infamous "Fire" session? Check. Everything is on point, from the scarily accurate wardrobe down to recreating the "Sloop John B." and "Surf's Up" promo videos shot for shot. It's these moments that show the film was made by fans with an attention for detail.

    Almost every song on the album Pet Sounds is featured in the film somewhere. Seeing Wilson's unorthodox recording techniques is such a pleasure for music nerds.

    Cinematographer Robert Yeoman, best known for creating the look of Wes Anderson's films, blends stylistic tone with realistic camera work, creating a sense of false nostalgia that is surreal yet inviting and intense.

    Composer Atticus Ross works wonders with the score, using a great wealth of Wilson's music in different ways and choosing songs that fit with the emotional tone of the scene brilliantly. Hearing the instrumental version of "Don't Talk" play as Wilson takes LSD for the first time is haunting. Witnessing the song "Til' I Die" play over a surreal, Kubrickian scene in which Wilson has an epiphany made me cry because of the powerful combination of imagery and music.

    The film is being released on June 5, to capitalize on The Beach Boys music being a staple of the summer, but it feels more like a Thanksgiving release to me. The cinematography, acting, script, and score are all Oscar worthy in my opinion, but the film may get lost in the race to other contenders, which is a shame.

    Love and Mercy is an awesome, unorthodox biopic that takes risks with form and narrative that has strong performances, script, cinematography, and of course, an amazing soundtrack. It will expose young people to the brilliance of Wilson's music and give older fans an insight into why Wilson is the poster boy for using creativity as an escape and an outlet from the pain of life and mental illness.

    And seriously, listen to the album SMiLE.
  • While I generally enjoy most music biopics, it's hard to argue with the fact that most of them tend to subscribe to a very familiar pattern. Every once in awhile, a film comes along that break the mold - Todd Haynes did it in 2007 with I'm Not There, which featured six different actors portraying Bob Dylan at various points in his career. That film's writer, Oren Moverman, offers a similarly unconventional approach to Love & Mercy, which hones in on two critical periods during the life of Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson.

    We first encounter Brian (Paul Dano) during the 1960s, shortly before the band is scheduled to head out for a tour of Japan. Reluctant to return to the road, Brian convinces his brothers that he belongs at home in the studio, where he'll be more effective at creating the band's next album. The boys finally acquiesce, and Brian hires a collection of studio musicians to begin crafting what would ultimately become Pet Sounds.

    Our next encounter with Brian comes during the 1980s, where he's portrayed by John Cusack. Brian meets, and attempts to court, Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), but she quickly discovers that Brian's life is not his own when she meets Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), his therapist and legal guardian. Landy controls every aspect of Brian's existence, from his diet to his personal relationships, all the while insisting that he has Brian's best interests at heart.

    The film frequently cuts between these two periods in Brian's life. We see the depths of his imagination and creativity as he employs a range of nontraditional elements to record Pet Sounds, desperately trying to bring to life the music he hears in his head, and all the while sliding further and further into the grip of severe mental illness. And we see the results of that illness, as Brian becomes a timid, broken man, cut off from his friends and family, allowing himself to be controlled and manipulated, and never able to find peace.

    Director Bill Pohlad does a marvelous job of illustrating the parallels between each on screen version of Brian Wilson, and both actors give brilliant, emotional performances. Dano in particular turns in what can arguably be called the best work of his career, perfectly embodying Brian's childlike glee as he excitedly flits around the studio, and capturing the anguish and desperation as his mind continues to deteriorate.

    Unorthodox in its approach and admirable in its complexity, Love & Mercy wisely chooses not to paint a definitive portrait of a man whose life couldn't possibly be summed up in a two-hour film. By confining the narrative to these two specific chapters, we're able to go far beyond the surface and reveal the inner workings of a tortured genius, and shed light on a story that few people are familiar with. Love & Mercy is a truly exceptional film about the internal and external struggles of a truly exceptional person, and is one of the most emotionally resonant experiences I've had with a film this year.
  • clarkj-565-16133612 September 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this movie last night at the Elgin Theatre as part of the Toronto International Film Festival(TIFF). The Elgin was a perfect setting, as the theatre is built in an old fashioned and artistic way as probably most of the theatres looked in the early 60s when the Beach Boys started their careers. I almost wanted to cry when I came out of the movie. Several things struck me most about the film. The character of Dr. Eugene Landy was totally Gothic in his perverse behaviour, he was truly scary to look at. In contrast, the relationship between Melinda and Brian balanced the tension and eventually was able to be the catalyst for Brian to break out of his virtual imprisonment with Landy.

    I grew up in the 60s and loved all the songs from the Beach Boys. In the 1990s I read a book about the band called "Heroes and Villains" by Stephen Gaines. I had no idea, however, how abusive Brian's father had been, not only physically but emotionally. The movie portrayed the creative aspects of Brian's work in the studio and the working of his imagination. Paul Giamatti did such a good job of playing the psycho that this set me off for most of the movie. Melinda's ability to recognize the genius and decency of Brian being the counterpoint. The acting was excellent and you come away with the realization of the great price that many artists have to pay to get their work out there!
  • zadkine25 April 2015
    I had no idea what this film was about. I thought it would be another musical biopic like "Walk the Line" or "Ray". It's nothing like those movies. This is the most intense, in-depth, and soulful look at the fragility of the creative mind since "All That Jazz". "All That Jazz" is the best film ever made about choreography and dance, this is the best film ever made about rock 'n roll. Dark, often depressing, but also exhilarating, "Love & Mercy", like "All That Jazz", captures the sense of loneliness and despair many creative geniuses suffer. And when the music starts, it's cool, loud, and breathtaking. "A Beautiful Mind" is the best film ever made about mental illness, because it's an unflinching and compassionate portrait rendered with remarkable artistic skill by director Ron Howard and acted by Russell Crowe. "Love & Mercy" is its equal: Director Bill Pohlad tells an equally moving story of a man's mind falling apart, every bit as skillfully as Ron Howard, and the performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack are each Oscar worthy - as was Russell Crowe's. And first and foremost, I found it to be one of the most painful and frightening portrayals of a tyrannical father ever put on film. Brian Wilson was surrounded by monsters, real and imaginary. In many ways the Beach Boys were a performing family, like the Osmonds or the Jackson 5, a band of brothers at the mercy of a brutal father. I could go on and on,there's a lot going on here - it's a terrific love story too - this movie delivers on so many levels.
  • Personal genius has been brilliantly portrayed in film before: "A Beautiful Mind" for maths; "Amadeus" for classical music; and more recently "A Theory of Everything" for cosmology. Behind such genius is often a degree of dysfunction, if not borderline madness.

    Here with "Love and Mercy" we get an insight into the creative churning of Wilson's tortured mind. But it is very much a time-banded view, focused on two key periods of his life: 1966, with Paul Dano ("12 Years a Slave"; "Looper") playing Wilson, and the 1990's where Wilson – severely drug-damaged, mentally ill and now played by John Cusack - is being taken for a ride by an unscrupulous and dangerous psychiatrist, Dr Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Playing a key role in his recovery is car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who Wilson desperately latches onto as a drowning man might grab a life-vest.

    Whilst the film could be described as a game of two halves, this is not how it is played out. We jump between both eras without warning, which works extremely well in maintaining the interest in the two parallel stories.

    In biopic terms, the 60's segments are probably the more gripping, providing a riveting insight into the production techniques of the iconic "Pet Sounds" album, frequently cited as one of the most innovative and creative albums ever released. The film also features superbly recreated 'old footage' (cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman) showing Beach Boy TV slots and video productions. Wilson's genius is neatly reflected through the admiration of the session musicians: they'd "played with them all" – Sinatra, Presley, Sam Cooke, etc – but Wilson was something else entirely.

    Paul Dano is just superb as the troubled youngster, physically and mentally abused by his father (an excellent Bill Camp) and exhibiting mental instability even before the dangers of LSD become evident. His slide into near insanity is brilliantly reflected in an audio soundscape that merges snatched Beach Boy fragments and natural sounds into a cacophony. If Edward Tize and his sound department doesn't get nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing there is no justice in the world.

    In the 90's segments, Cusack delivers his best performance in years as the older Wilson. And after being rude about Elizabeth Banks' directing skills for "Pitch Perfect 2", I feel I have to express my admiration for her portrayal of perplexed astonishment as Melinda, a woman with a mission. Both extremely subtle and utterly enjoyable performances.

    In contrast, the excellent Giamatti seems rather over the top as the scheming Landy, although internet articles suggest that it is a scarily accurate portrayal of the degree of control he exerted.

    Directed by Bill Pohlad (someone normally found in the production office), it's difficult to fault such a lovingly crafted film. The pre-credits reference to a 'building scream' (I assume relating to the 'goose-bumpy' bit of "Good Vibrations") is never resolved. And (as I rather missed it in the film) the motives for Landy's extreme actions are a bit obscure (in reality, the Wilson family later discovered he was named as a 70% beneficiary in Wilson's will). However, this film, which deserved a broader and better-publicised release, stands as a superb tribute to an iconic musician and comes with a "highly recommended" from me.

    (If you enjoyed this review, please see the illustrated version at bob-the-movie-man.com and enter your email address to receive future reviews. Thanks).
  • It's no secret that with the plethora of biopics we get every year, there is a formula that many of them follow. Just last year, we got to see the stories of a wayward soul who ventured out on a soul-cleansing journey through the mountains, a computer genius who cracked a presumably unbreakable code during war times, one of the deadliest snipers in American history, and one of funk's greatest musicians told on film. Bill Pohland's "Love & Mercy," concerning the life of Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson, is bound to be written off by some as another interchangeable biopic, but if you've seen so much as a trailer for this film, you know this is something deeper, richer, and more complex than formula could ever begin to handle.

    "Love & Mercy" focuses on two times pieced together, as Pohland and the writing team of Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman segway between the "past" Brian Wilson, played by Paul Dano, and the "future" Brian Wilson, played by John Cusack, never telling us exactly where the present lies. We follow Wilson during his rise with his brothers and friends to make The Beach Boys one of America's most successful boy bands in the 1960's. Despite initial success with The Beach Boys, following a severe panic attack, Wilson resigns from the band to focus on writing back home in California. He's convinced he has found the formula for "the greatest rock album ever," experimenting with a plethora of different melodies, instruments, and lyrics to create something one can not only hear and enjoy, but feel.

    While undergoing this arduous process, Wilson is met with little vocal support. He receives the casual head nods from most of his bandmates, with the exception of Michael Love (Jake Abel), who constantly criticizes his creative decisions, and his father, who is still bitter after being fired by his own son. While focusing on this, we frequently jump into Brian's life in the future, where he is placed under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti in another brutal but compelling role), who over-medicates and physically and mentally abuses him. Brian winds up meeting and falling for a Cadillac saleswoman named Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), who constantly wants to be with him but finds Dr. Landy to be a smothering force preventing their connection from growing.

    Pohland's experimental structure for "Love & Mercy" is nothing shy of remarkable, but the fact that it doesn't make the film feel off balance or tonally uneven is a total cinematic anomaly. While frequently weaving through different time periods seems ripe for complete chaos for a film trying to keep a consistent tone, "Love & Mercy" handles the challenge beautifully, humanizing Brian regardless of his age and working to find the core idea in each scene.

    I've long asserted that Paul Dano is one of the finest actors in cinema today and "Love & Mercy" is another link in his ever-growing chain of terrific performances. Similar to his role in "Prisoners," Dano must remain relatively expressionless and look as if nothing is occurring inside his head, when really, there is too much going on in his head to accurately communicate. Dano, once again, blindsides the audience by taking a role that seems too facile to carry a film and making it a fleshed out, thoroughly impressive performance. John Cusack also delivers a role much like Dano, channeling his kind of emptiness so well that it's like watching two actors in different time periods of their life playing a character in different time periods of his own life. The result is a mesmerizing, surreal experience.

    "Love & Mercy"'s vignette-style structure examines the heartbreak, the joy, the contentment, and the unmatched physical and mental pressure of Brian in a remarkably tender way. Robert Yeoman's cinematography also paints a picture that, while littered with nostalgia in look, costume design, and general vibes, captures Brian's hectic environment so affectionately that it becomes strangely beautiful. Through all of Brian's madness, his unpredictable panic attacks, episodes of rage, and the contemptuous relationship with his father, Pohland searches to find attributes of Brian to showcase in a way that's impacting.

    Calling "Love & Mercy" a "mesmerizing, surreal experience" is an appropriate, if ostensibly exaggerating, summation. Similar to how Brian can't always communicate the beauty behind the sound of his music, I can't quite put my finger on what works with this film and in what manner. This film, however, snuck up on me in a way that was remarkably subtle but lasting and, even though it's been several days since I've seen it, the effect remains strong in a way that only enhances the film's compelling and unique aura.
  • The performances of both Paul Dano and John Cusak are Oscar worthy. It's hard to believe all that sunny happy music came from such a dark place. Long heralded as a genius to see Brian Wilson during the making of Pet Sounds is astonishing. To see Brian Wilson later is heart wrenching. Stay for the credits. You will go back to listen to Pet Sounds with a whole new appreciation. Elizabeth Banks also gives a first rate performance as his girlfriend. It really is amazing to see how John Cusak captured Brian's mannerisms and voice. The way the story is told is unique in it's mix of the use of both actors. Should be a tough contender come awards season next year.
  • Greetings again from the darkness. Beach Boys fans may struggle a bit with this one since the light-hearted, airy feel to the "Fun, Fun, Fun" music of the band is mostly absent. Instead, director Bill Pohlad pulls back the curtain on the emotional and mental struggles of visionary songwriter Brian Wilson … the band's creative force.

    In an unusual artistic approach, Paul Dano plays Brian from the 1960's period that resulted in the revolutionary Pet Sounds album and the ongoing battle with his domineering father; while John Cusack plays Brian from the late 1980's - his most creatively bankrupt period and the subsequent debilitating influence of quackster psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

    The two periods are blended together as we (and Brian) bounce back and forth between the struggle of a budding musical genius working to release the sounds in his head, and a middle aged man so heavily medicated that speaking, eating and even getting out of bed are such overwhelming obstacles that music rarely registers. It's during the latter period that Brian is truly at the mercy of Dr. Eugene Landy. Giamatti sports a floppy wig and proceeds to rage at Brian while trying to charm Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), Brian's new romantic interest. Knowing this disgusting period was part of Brian's life only adds to the anger and frustration we feel … not just as fans, but as human beings.

    What sets this biopic apart is actually the performance of Dano and the peek inside the process of Brian's genius. Watching Brian work the musicians and mold the music on the fly is breath-taking, even though we see the challenges of his early mental issues. It's a joy to see a tribute to the studio session players known as "The Wrecking Crew" … themselves the subject of a recent stellar documentary. It's during this period that the Wilson brothers' father (played by Bill Camp) constantly derides Brian and his "new" music. There is also some insight into the Brian vs Mike Love battles – Brian exploring his creative music, while Mike just wants to keep cashing in with their expected "fun" style.

    Some may find the two-headed approach to be distracting, but it drives home the point of what a different man he was in comparing the mid-1960's to the late 1980's. Mostly, I found the 1960's portion to be an insight into what we hear from so many geniuses, regardless of their specialty. Brian says it's like "Someone is inside me. Not me." His struggles are non-relatable to others – even his brothers, and especially his dad. What is mostly a look at the darkness behind the "sunny" music, does come with real life redemption courtesy of Melinda's strength … and witnessed in the video shown over the closing credits.
  • It's almost impossible to portray the work involved in making a great song in a movie. Love and Mercy accomplishes that and so much more. It is an emotional juggernaut that every boomer should enjoy. Dano and Cusack nail the early and later Wilson. Elizabeth Banks holds the whole thing together with the "flash forwards" featuring her pitch-perfect performance.

    The typical music biopic is a formula of rising star gets drugged out, falls from the pinnacle and either dies an early death or maybe makes a comeback after getting sober. This movie explains WHY all those things happened to Brian Wilson and does it with an unblinking eye. It treats the audience like they have brains.

    This movie is not for the faint-hearted. It tells it like it was. Some very sad episodes, but an ending worth waiting for. Go see it.
  • zkonedog28 February 2017
    When done right, a biopic film can be quite a sight to behold for the potential it is to combine drama, real-life, and music. Fortunately, "Love & Mercy" is most definitely done right, relaying the story of Brian Wilson and his relation to the band he created...The Beach Boys.

    For a basic plot summary, "Love & Mercy" tells an intertwining dual-narrative tale: A young Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) is rising to fame with The Beach Boys, while at the same time succumbing to his mental demons. While the rest of the band wants to "ride the wave" (pun intended) of their skyrocketing success, Brian feels artistically compelled (one might say maniacally driven) to do his own thing. An alcoholic and un-supportive father (played by Bill Camp) finally pushes Brian over the edge, prompting him to shack up in his room for years on end. Fast-forward about 30 years into the future and Wilson (John Cusack), now quite an odd fellow but at least out in society again, happens to meet a car saleswoman named Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and strike up a friendship (that may also be a bit romantic). Melinda discovers that Brian is now closely watched (guarded) by one Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), on a strict program of pills and tough discipline. The doctor says it is for Brian's own good, but Melinda has her own serious doubts about that.

    The first thing that needs to be understood about "Love & Mercy" is that it isn't a "Beach Boys biopic". It's a "Brian Wilson biopic". Sure, the other Beach Boys members are prominently featured as is their music throughout, but the narrative focus is squarely on Brian Wilson. So, those looking for a retrospective on the history of the group might be a little disappointed.

    This is probably a good choice, however, as Brian's story is probably the most interesting thing TO focus on. From his relationships to family, friends, fellow band members, and (in the later years) society as a whole, Brian battled mental illness and extreme anxiety. I hadn't realized that he also looked to be severely taken advantage of by Dr. Landy. Just a fascinating human-interest story all-around.

    Like all great musical biopics, "Love & Mercy" needed great music and got exactly that! You'll be listening to Beach Boys tunes for awhile after the viewing is over. The acting is also very convincing. Both the young/old Wilson actors are spot-on, while Banks shows she can hold down a very serious, emotional role (moving away from the dirty rom-coms and crazy Effie character from the Hunger Games she had come to be known for). Of course, it's a historical picture, so Giamatti is in it (!).

    About the only caveat I could give to this film is that it might not play quite as well if you know nothing about the Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. I knew the basic story going in, so was able to pick up on all the requisite beats. I'd be interested to hear if others (who know nothing about the topic) were able to do the same.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed "Love & Mercy" for its combination of drama, music, and historical realism. The scenes from the past are capable of producing great nostalgia, while those set in Wilson's "older years" tell a compelling story that many may not know.
  • This is the story of Brian Wilson during two time periods. In 1964, Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) has a panic attack and quits touring with the band. Instead he concentrates on writing for the new record Pet Sounds. He struggles from his abusive father and starts hearing voices. In the 80s, Brian (John Cusack) is under the control of his therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). He buys a car from saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who eventually breaks Landy's hold on him.

    This is a compelling biopic of an interesting person. Paul Dano really hits it out of the park. His section has some great scenes. On its own, John Cusack does a great job. Put together, I can't help but think that Cusack is doing a passable imitation of Dano's performance. I'm not judging their relative acting skills. I just think that Dano has always played this type of character and he simply fits better. I'm certain that Dano would be nominated for an Oscar if he played both time periods. Landy is the villain of the piece and Giamatti plays him with gusto. For a more nuanced character, the movie needs to show his character saving Brian at the beginning. Splitting the time period so neatly does lessen some important sections of Brian's life.
  • Brian Wilson's story is worthy of a movie. Neither his creative genius or his mental illness were appreciated until years after the fact. His childhood, as was Michael Jackson's 15 years later , shaped the adult life he inherited. His creative genius allowed and encouraged him to be used by others, including the other "Beach Boys". Mike Love is finally exposed in this film. The story is very interesting. The casting very good, the acting excellent. John Cusack hasn't been this good …maybe never. Elizabeth Banks will be a feature actor after this film. Dano did a very good job. Giamarti might have been a little over the top but to someone who appreciates the Beach Boys and music in general, the scenes from the recording studio are priceless. My fault finding with this movie are the direction and editing. Too long, too dry in spots. A better director would have won an Academy Award with this story
  • There have been plenty of great musician biopics over the years, but I can't remember there being two incredible ones in the same year. Straight Outta Compton and Love & Mercy are two very different films in terms of structure and story for that matter, but both are equally as gripping and satisfying.

    Focusing mostly solely on Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys leader, Love & Mercy tells the story of Brian in the early days of the band, and also his days in his 40's when his therapist controlled most of his life. The film's structure goes back and forth between these two eras with Paul Dano playing Wilson in his early days and John Cusack later on. Both of the performances exude a great amount of pain and suffering while still feeling relatable at the same time. Bill Pohlad also deserves a lot of credit for his ability to weave the two time periods together in seamless fashion.

    The music of The Beach Boys will suck you in from the start, but it's really the writing, direction, and performances that keep you watching. The eerie tone is not that of a mainstream film, but that's a good correlation to the not-so-mainstream 'Pet Sounds' album the group worked on for a majority of the early years scenes. The film also does a good job of portraying the crazy genius that Brian Wilson was. His ability to mix song structure and break the norm of music at that time and even stray away from where the group was is unparalleled and extremely risky.

    Paul Giamatti plays a similar back-stabbing character as he does in Straight Outta Compton, but it fits perfectly for his strengths. Really, there aren't any real weaknesses of this film. It's captivating throughout and the performances may even be worthy of some recognition come awards season. A job well done.

    +Both lead performances

    +Strange tone

    +Bill Pohlad's consistent direction

    +Who doesn't love the music?

    8.2/10
  • On one level this is an enjoyable, sculpted film, competently acted and directed. On another level it renders Brian Wilson's compelling story as a cartoon, with one dimensional villain, and henchmen, and spotless do nothing wrong heroes, in the angelic only-missing-a-halo Girlfriend and the charmingly whacky Wilson himself. His band of brothers are cut out 60's clichés, Mike love clearly cast in his darker shade and the others in shades of invisible. None of these characters are rendered in any detail beyond what we'd expect in a children's cartoon. And when you notice that it makes the whole film a much lesser event that's hard to take seriously, and that does a disservice to Wilson's story. While I enjoyed the recording and youthful Wilson sections the set ups are just too bombastic to nail home the agenda of Evil shrink, Henchmen, Angelic GF, Simple naive central figure etc. No subtlety, no real shades, just primary colors.
  • mazinman-115 September 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    I bought Love & Mercy today and watched it with a totally open mind, having heard and read positive things about the movie. But unfortunately I found Love & Mercy over wrought and as though the director were on an ego trip. For example, what's up with all of the wandering around of Brian Wilson's character; whether as the younger Brian or as the older, he wanders around aimlessly as the camera trucks in for close-ups. I found it way too monotonous. I realize the story tellers were trying to portray mental illness but the technique was so over used I found myself looking for the DVD remote so I could fast- forward through the slog after the millionth time of the method. And let's talk about casting: the use of Paul Dano and John Cusack as both younger/older Brian Wilson definitely did not work for this viewer. Not only was this the wrong idea, but both Cusack and Dano are not right for the lead. Finally, Paul Giamatti, bless his heart, is an incredible actor but was miscast as Dr. Landy. Paul Giamatti in a wig is Paul Giamatti in a wig! I'm not sure what was in the mind of director Bill Pohlad but it did not translate to me whatsoever. What a waste of good talent and potentially an awesome soundtrack. I kept waiting to hear so some great (and historical) Beach Boys tunes but only got teased throughout the movie for the most part.
  • As a fan of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson in particular, I was eager to see this movie. Brian is a guy with an enormous musical talent. He had quite an abusive upbringing from his father - but in the movie he says that if he hadn't had that amount of discipline from his father, he may never have achieved the greatness that he did.

    The movie does jump around quite a bit - some people may struggle with that if they don't know their history. What was the final edit, is generally very good and worthwhile. It sympathetically showed Brian's mental struggles alongside his genius. He is a very fragile person but in his own world of music he has some confidence.

    I wish we got to learn how this creep of a psychotherapist got into Brian's life and was able to take over in the way that he did. I'm just baffled that surviving family members and the band didn't get more involved to stop this getting out of control in the way that it did. There's huge gaps in the story - and maybe that's because Brian himself is unable to fill them himself as there were a number of years where he was barely able to function.

    The movie will have natural appeal to Beach Boys/Brian Wilson fans, but I'm not sure it will have much appeal to outsiders.

    I am delighted that Brian has got his life back and is able to perform and write in a way that's comfortable for him. He seems to be at the best place in his head that he's ever been and seems to have a good grasp on reality.

    Worthwhile but could have been a little better.
  • gsygsy10 November 2015
    A biopic of, and a homage to, Brian Wilson. Most of the time it succeeds in avoiding the tackiness of the genre because of the structure of its screenplay, which splits Brian into two (occasionally three, counting fleeting appearances of him as a child). This strategy was used to great effect (and with a larger number of 'selves') in He's Not There, Todd Haynes' fascinating film about Bob Dylan, and I'm sure it's no accident that Oren Moverman, Haynes' collaborator on the screenplay of that movie, is a co-author of Love & Mercy.

    The two Brians here are brilliantly played by Paul Dano and John Cusack, two of Hollywood's finest. Dano, with more to chew on, is especially noteworthy. They are supported superbly by Elizabeth Banks' quiet compassion and Paul Giamatti's dangerous volatility. John Camp contributes a fine performance as Wilson's violent, emotionally blackmailing father.

    Another star of Love & Mercy is its production design, which makes brilliantly expressive use of colour contrasts. And of course there's the music, the sound of The Beach Boys. The scenes recreating their studio sessions are simultaneously celebratory and poignant, especially for those of us who were young when these wonderful songs first emerged.

    But, to its credit, the movie is not a nostalgia-fest. Having avoided that trap, however, it occasionally falls into another, making connections between madness and genius that can't ever be proved: were Wilson's mental illness or his drug abuse contributors to his visionary talent? No one can know. The movie tries to have it both ways by suggesting that LSD was an influence on Pet Sounds, while also portraying Brian's illness as an obstacle to the expression of his gift. This apart, the screenplay, ably directed by Bill Pohlad, is pretty strong.

    Best for me is a wonderful conversation between Wilson-Dano and his session drummer. The latter has played with 'em all - Elvis, Phil Spector, Sam Cooke - but tells Brian that he's better than any of them. The look of modest yet profound gratitude on Dano's face powerfully packs the lack of praise he's had from his father, the incomprehension of his brothers and cousin (his fellow Beach Boys) at the depth of his talent, and his desperate need for love. In one respect this is quite a clichéd scene in terms of what the drummer actually says, but the film has created a context in which Wilson's whole dilemma is suddenly made vivid, an opportunity which Dano, a sensitive and gifted actor, seizes and transforms into something great.
  • I met Brian Wilson several times. All four stars go to Paul Dano, who tries and does well as young Brian, but no one can suspend disbelief so far as to accept John Cusack, a great actor in the right situation, as Brian anybody. It's a ridiculous stretch to begin with. Brian himself was able to sit through this film, though how, I cannot imagine. Still, Brian dances to his own imagination, so I wouldn't presume to determine his impression of it. Nothing wrong with the film's values, only that the flip-flop age approach, Dano as young Brian, Cusack as older Brian, simply doesn't work, because even a fine actor like Cusack cannot achieve any believable resemblance to Wilson or his persona - he is just the wrong choice to pull off such a huge conceit. Best turn to "Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" (1995) and let the actual man do his job. Director Bill Pohlad is no slouch, but next time, perhaps a bit more looking before taking a leap the size of this one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Unfortunately, genius and mental illness sometimes go hand-in-hand. Too often, the kind of genius that represents truly original thought is so unusual that it's perceived as being "crazy", but when we're talking about a literal, clinically-defined mental or emotional impairment, the issue becomes whether the mental illness is the cause or the result of the sick person's genius. It's a kind of chicken-egg question, but no matter which came first, mental illness hurts. It hurts the person suffering from it and those who care about him or her and, left untreated (or poorly treated), it can destroy those interpersonal relationships and, of course, the person who is ill – genius and all. This was the problem, and nearly the fate, of Brian Wilson, founder of The Beach Boys. Wilson's struggle is the focus of the innovative and insightful biopic "Love & Mercy" (PG-13, 2:01).

    Part of the problem in describing this movie is that the term "biopic" applies only in the loosest sense. This film is not a valentine to the Beach Boys, or even a chronicle of all the important events in the life of Wilson himself. The story's unusual structure is meant to convey a single major issue in his life – an ongoing struggle with mental illness. The plot revolves around two pivotal periods in Wilson's personal history – the late 1960s and the late 1980s – when his illness began to have a significant effect on his life, and, later, when the treatment he received was exposed as more harmful than helpful and Wilson was able to start receiving proper care. Constructed as it is, the film's creative team decided to have two actors play Wilson – Paul Dano for the earlier portion of the story and John Cusack for the later part. Those separate periods in Wilson's life unfold throughout the movie, which skillfully alternates between scenes from each, similar to the way "The Godfather, Part II" tells its tale, but without the sense that the earlier scenes are flashbacks. Both stories are told chronologically and as if they are happening simultaneously, both bringing Wilson's life to points of crisis and ultimately, to redemption.

    The late 1960s' Brian Wilson was a young genius, at the height of his powers. A few well-chosen scenes (displayed as if they're bits of genuine archival footage) show The Beach Boys at their most popular – clean-cut California kids cranking out hit after feel-good hit. By the late 60s, most of their biggest hits are behind them and Wilson is trying to move the band in new directions, gaining inspiration from his natural musical talent, innate creativity, some illicit drugs, and the voices and music that he hears in his head. The main focus in the late 60s scenes is the production of the classic album "Pet Sounds", which was critically acclaimed (and is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time), but was dispassionately received by many Beach Boys fans due to its radical departure from the band's signature upbeat songs. Except for a few scenes in which we see the band create "Good Vibrations", the focus is not so much on the music as on the man. It's a very human story which is both more personal and more relatable than a traditional biopic.

    The late 1980s' Brian Wilson is a broken man being rebuilt by the radical 24-hour therapy of his psychiatrist and legal guardian, Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). There are bits of dialog to let us know how Wilson got to this point and how much Landy did to bring him back from the brink, but most of what we see in these portions of the story is the complete control that Landy exercises over his patient's daily life and personal affairs. Landy, or those on his staff, follow Wilson everywhere he goes. We can tell by the way Wilson talks and acts that he needs some level of supervision. What isn't as clear is whether his need for Landy's care has more to do with Wilson's actual mental state, the huge amount of medication Landy has Wilson taking or the near complete physical, mental and emotional dependence that Landy has caused Wilson to have on him. This is the situation that Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) walks into. She's a former model who is now selling cars. She and Brian meet when he comes to buy a Cadillac from the dealership where she works. In spite of Wilson's off-beat way of talking, Melinda is drawn to his sweet and fragile disposition and it's obvious that Wilson is immediately attracted to her too. As the two grow closer and Landy allows her, as he says "unprecedented access" to Wilson's life, she sees Landy's manipulations for what they are and feels compelled to help, regardless of the cost.

    Those who can watch "Love & Mercy" without being distracted by the unconventional story-telling style are likely to find it both enlightening and enjoyable. The film provides rare insights into mental illness and shines a light on the need for the families and friends of such patients to remain active and attentive regarding their loved one's care. Beach Boys fans, and really, all music fans, will enjoy seeing the creative process behind one of the most important influences in the history of American popular music. And those who like a good romance or human drama will get that too. Last but not least, movie fans will appreciate the outstanding performances and will likely hope, as I do, that they are remembered come the next awards season. However, the film has a few too many slow moments, it could have done a better job of filling in some of the obvious gaps in the story, and the prevailing tone of the film is a little depressing, but its compelling story told in such an original way with such great actors outweighs its few imperfections. "B+"
  • I've been a big Beach Boys fan since the 60's. Love their sound and the energy in their music, so I can tell you how disappointed I was to find out someone made a BB movie and didn't put any songs in. Oh there were a few snippets here and there and several shots of their music in the making with studio scenes, but what a missed opportunity.

    I know, I know. It was supposed to be about Brian Wilson's struggle with mental disorder and drugs, etc., but let's face it - he wrote all those songs about cars, surfing and beach parties that captured the imagination of a young guy from New York and I was waiting to hear some of them. What saved the movie for me was John Cusack, who played the older Brian and who I enjoy very much. He did his best as did Paul Giamatti as his mentor/bully. Elizabeth Banks was great eye candy.

    Director Pohlad did further damage in my estimation by cutting back and forth between Early Years Brian and Older Brian too frequently. Just as you would get absorbed in one episode he would cut to the other one, and did it over and over. Ultimately it didn't matter, though. I was waiting for a song or two anyway.
  • It's hard to know where to start with this movie. It is a mesmerising voyage through key parts of Brian Wilson's life. It also shows us what a musical genius he is and certainly made me ask myself whether he'd have been capable of producing all the incredible music if he hadn't been afflicted with the psychological problems that have affected him to varying degrees throughout his life.

    The movie cleverly avoids flooding the viewer with wall-to-wall Beach Boys hits, just feeding us snippets of songs as they were being worked on in studio sessions. And, BTW, kudos to Paul Dano for singing some of the tracks himself.

    Dano and Cusack give stellar performances as the younger and older Brian Wilson, respectively. This is not typical material for Cusack, really, and he carries off the role with aplomb. The supporting cast are also excellent, particularly Paul Giamatti (Does he ever turn in a bad performance? I can't think of any!) and Elizabeth Banks.

    It's a shame that Love and Mercy didn't get a wider cinema release and I'm sure a lot of people may not even be aware of its existence. But it rally is a superb movie and I encourage everybody to check it out. You won't be disappointed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Love and Mercy is the story of Brian Wilson the creative force of the.Beach Boy music. Award worthy performances by both of the actors playing Brian Wilson and Paul Giamatti as the evil Dr. Landy. Elizabeth Banks is a ray of light among the darkness.

    At just over two hours the movie is and feels a bit long. There are redundant scenes of a young disturbed Wilson with Landy verbally abusing everyone in range. The movie makes it clear he overstepped boundaries.

    It's a well done bio-pic but it is difficult to watch. There is barely enough Beach Boy music considering their vast library. There is no need to see this in a theater as it will play well on a home platform.
  • If there is any thing certain, it's that you cannot judge your movie picks based on the ratings given on this site. This so called movie is so bad, so boring, so long, and so much of a complete and total waste of time, that one feels dumber simply having watched it. I must continue...should you decide to trust other reviewers and watch this drivel, keep you finger on the fast forward button, as that really is the only way to get through this bore-fest.

    Let me start with I really do like the Beach Boys, I like and respect Brian Wilson, he is a music icon and genius and deserves so much better than this crap. His story could be and should be compelling and interesting to music lovers, but this sad so called production does him and his story an huge dis-service. I cannot find any redeeming factors in this movie other than Elizabeth Banks is really a cutie, other than that the acting is over the top, the story is NOT developed, and they really don't even include any Beach Boy music other than short snip-its of their songs just to tease you. That said why watch this? My suggestion....DON'T!!!
  • Perhaps a biographical movie should not be expected to be a comprehensive story. Nevertheless, when flash-backs are so abundantly used that even the exact time period being recounted is unclear, and when many important details of the characters life (though important) are omitted (such as the weight gain, alcohol and drug abuse - which are referred to but not depicted), the viewer may start to wonder how much of this movie is presented as it is for dramatic effect. And drama is the one thing the movie certainly has, even though it is a very dark tale. After watching it you have to wonder if the missing parts were deliberately excised because they would not further the drama and if scenes were added that were not part of Brian's life.

    Maybe those of us who have a compelling interest should just go out and read a book. But for those not quite so interested a more accurate portrayal might have improved the movie.
  • To all Hollywood directors out there trying to make a biopic of a person's life, this is certainly the way to do it. Bill Pohlad's emotionally engaging biopic of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson is extremely effective with great cinematography, wonderful acting by the leads and is heart wrenching well written. Unlike most biopics that tried to cover the entirety of a person's life, Love and Mercy instead keeps its focus on two areas of Brian Wilson's life. First, when the younger Wilson (Paul Dano) is making the iconic Pet Sounds album in the 1960s and dealing with the aftermath of the album's release. Secondly, it deals with an older Wilson's (John Cusack) deteriorating mental state in the 1980s as he attempts to find love with a local car dealer (Elizabeth Banks), whilst also being emotionally abused by his psychiatrist Dr Landy (Paul Giamatti). By doing this, Pohlad creates a more focused narrative that doesn't confuse the audience by trying to cram in too many of Wilson's life into one two-hour movie. The movie also succeeds in the way in which it transitions seamlessly between the two different time periods. Unlike most biopics, it doesn't present the events chronologically. Instead, it goes back and forth between Dano and Cusack's Wilson. However, it never feels like two different movies, as both sections of the film complement each other and add more depth to the scenes that come prior and after. The acting is all around top notch for the film as well. Dano probably gives the best performance of his career, acting like the mad genius that Wilson was. He perfectly depicts the ever worsening mental state of Wilson and it's shameful that he wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. Cusack also gives one of his best performance in years. Whilst he doesn't quite have as much to do as Dano does, he still delivers a quiet and reserved performance that reminds audiences of why people so adored him in the 90s. Elizabeth Banks is also great in her role as the emphatic love interest of Wilson. Arguably, some might dislike the fact that Bank's character does probably have a larger role in these sections than Cusack but she never feels forced in. Wilson is seen primarily through Dano's eyes and Banks is the voice of reason that is trying to bring him back to reality. If I had to criticise any performance in the film, I would be inclined to say Paul Giamatti. Whilst his performance is by no means awful, I did think he occasionally went slightly too over the top in some parts of the film. When compared to the subtle performances by all the other main actors, I felt his performance became occasionally too cartoonish (although Wilson himself said that his performance reminded him of the real Dr Landy, so maybe I'm in the wrong on this one). Love and Mercy is a film that everyone should watch, regardless of whether they're a Beach Boys fan or not. It delivers an interesting perspective into one of the 20th century's greatest musicians but feels more focused and more engaging than some of the music biopics that have preceded it (e.g. Ray, Walk the Line etc). It's a film that deserves a gander and I can't recommend it enough.
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