Love and Mercy

Love and Mercy

Rated PG-13

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Directed by: Bill Pohlad

Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti

Plot: This biopic follows the life of musician Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. It follows two different eras of Brian’s life simultaneously; we see him as a young man rising in the musical industry, as well as an older man in the grips of mental illness. Half of this movie is the story of a musical genius trying to develop his sound and push the limits of the musical medium while dealing with mental disorders and family conflict. The other is the story of a troubled man being exploited by his Doctor and caretaker, Eugene Landy, and how he finds love in the arms of Melinda Ledbetter, a woman who tries to rescue him from the destructive environment he is trapped in.

Review: This movie is provides a look into the very interesting life of prolific musician Brian Wilson. Both Paul Dano and John Cusack play the role of Wilson at different times in his life. The performances of the two are spectacular, and they are able to portray a man who is at once quirky, unstable and charming. Equally great supporting performances are offered up by Banks and Giamatti. Giamatti in the role of Brian’s manipulative, unscrupulous doctor is truly menacing.

While the parts of Wilson’s life depicted in the film are fascinating, by the end it does feel like there is a lot of connective tissue missing. In the future scenes with Cusack, Brian’s failed marriage, his falling out with his family, and his struggle with an eating disorder and other mental illness are all referenced, but hardly any of that is shown in Dano’s scenes. Most of the focus put in the past is spent on Wilson’s time in the studio producing the album Pet Sounds. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact it was probably my favorite part of the movie, but if it had run for an extra forty-five minutes and included the darker period of his life I think the film as a whole would have been more powerful. I was also disappointed that it never showed how Landy came to be a part of Brian’s life, how that relationship developed over time, and the legal battle Melinda fought with Landy to regain Brian’s freedom.

The tone of the movie is almost always unnerving and tense, which is a far cry from the heartwarming love story the trailers make it out to be. Overall I liked Love and Mercy. As stated above, it offers great performances from a solid cast. Plus everything in it looks great, and it is at times very interesting. However, unlike me, if performances and cinematography aren’t enough to carry a movie for you, then you shouldn’t feel too bad for missing this one.

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