“Love & Mercy” is an above average biopic about the life of the musical genius Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It tells the story of Wilson’s life when he was young while recording the soundtrack for “Pet Sounds,” combined with moments from his life in the 1980’s when he was under the care of a psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Landy who had Wilson overmedicated and was in complete control over his personal and professional life.
It is during his time with Dr. Landy, that Brian (John Cusack) meets Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) who sells Brian a Cadillac. There is a romantic spark between the two and Brian and Melinda start dating. The downer is that while Melinda is dated Brian Wilson, they were also accompanied with Dr. Landy or someone working for Landy. As Melinda starts falling in love with Brian, she was witness to Brian being overmedicated and being verbally abused by his doctor. So, in an act of true love and mercy, she decides to walk away from Brian’s life, stating, “I can’t image one more person asking for something from Brian.” But before she walks away, she is instrumental in getting Dr. Landy out of Brian’s life.
“Love & Mercy,” deftly combines Brian’s life with Melinda with scenes when Brian was younger. The scenes feature the incredible Paul Dano as the young Brian and show the complexities of Brian’s life as he was composing the album “Pet Sounds.” It uniquely shows Brian’s brilliance as his mental illness starts taking over his mind. It also gives a good view of his family relationships with his overbearing father and his confused brothers.
Ultimately, if any of us were in the condition as Wilson was with Dr. Landry, we would indeed be so incredibly fortunate to have someone love us the way Melinda loved Brian and “Love & Mercy,” is a perfect tribute to that kind of love.
“Love & Mercy,” was directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Bill Pohlad, who is mostly known as a producer of such films as “12 Years a Slave,” and “The Tree of Life.” He does an excellent job of combining the early and later life of Brian Wilson into one story. By seeing Brian’s brilliance of a young man, it allows the audience to have the compassion for him as a more mature man when he meets Melinda.
There are many great performances here, but the ones that stick out the most are Paul Dano, playing the young Brian and Elizabeth Banks as Melinda. Every year Dano is in a movie that has a performance that surpasses that from the year before, and truly “Love & Mercy,” is his best performance to date. He plays the musical genius of Brian Wilson so perfectly that it’s so easy to think he really is Brian Wilson. Dano should expect some attention during award season. Look for Dano to at least get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy or Musical.
Elizabeth Banks also stands a chance of getting some attention for her supporting work in the film. Banks plays a woman that is basically just a really decent person – and that can be really boring. But Banks is able to show her empathy for Brian along with her love for him without the film coming out as a melodramatic yarn. It’s Bank’s ability to play this nuanced character that brings all the story elements together and she should get her some attention during award season.
As far as the technical side of things, the cinematography by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) is beautiful and completely enjoyable. Over the top in providing the magic to the film is the music editing and the film editing by Dino Jonsäter (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), which is phenomenal. And of course, bringing all the parts together and making a succinct story is director Bill Pohlad. I look forward to more from Pohlad as a director.
“Love & Mercy,” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug content and language and has a run-time of 121 minutes.
If you get the chance during streaming or DVD time, combine this with the documentary that came out early this year, titled “The Wrecking Crew.” It will make the perfect double feature.