Love and Mercy (2015)

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It truly is mesmerizing, the music, the story and the acting completes such a whirlwind and engaging film that you want to know more and go out to buy the Beach Boys music. It’s such a deep and personal plot that even someone without much knowledge of the man in question can find this film greatly satisfying.

Cutting between 1960’s songwriter of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) and 80’s Wilson (John Cusack) we follow this music man as he tries creating a masterpiece of an album and later as he copes with his increased condition and the weight of an oppressive therapist on his every day life.

Bill Pohlad directs this changing time period of a movie with finesse that it never jumbles or loses the audience, at least I don’t believe it ever does. This is only his second directorial gig, after a 24 year gap which is astonishing because this film feels like it’s in the possession of a creator with perfect vision and understanding. All of his producing credits have clearly helped his way as this movie flows effortlessly between the 60’s and 80’s, each setting giving us different yet worrying versions of Wilson as he grows aware of his mental condition.

The music scenes themselves are fantastic, not just because of the songs but in how they’re shown. I’ll give an example, as Brian is trying to put together a piece in the studio it feels like we’re there, witnessing this mastery take shape. The film has such a grand feeling of musical construction as he attempts to break the rock/pop mould. Notes and instruments take front and centre at different points as songs are dissected and painstakingly gone over to fulfill Wilson’s ideas. This is evident as he focuses on the strings in the well known ‘Good Vibrations’ track.

The screenplay is by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner and is great in the terms of putting a lot in, of course it can’t paint in every fact and figure but there’s surely enough for Wilson fans and people who aren’t so clued up. Even in a little bit of looking about the man just today I see there’s so much about Brian Wilson so it’d be hard to expect the screenwriters to put in all of it. Perhaps more could of been done with Marilyn and the influence of the quite evil Landy but for what’s included, I truly invested in the story and found the life of this icon fascinating.

It goes without saying to mention that the music triumphs in this movie, even Atticus Ross’ score elevates the moments without lyrics. I feel ashamed to say I don’t own ‘Pet Sounds’ but after viewing this I want to badly. The sounds are so innovative and still sound fresh and a world better than the majority of music these days. The scene as we see Paul Dano’s younger Wilson tinkle on the ivories and sing ‘God Only Knows’ is hauntingly beautiful and stood out for me, it’s such a perfect lonely yet uplifting song for this feature’s theme.

Paul Dano crackles with amazing energy as the youthful Brian Wilson, making his more fractured scenes more heartbreaking as he starts hearing voices, getting testy and distancing himself. John Cusack is just brilliant as the middle aged man, trying to break free but quivering in his state. There’s a broken soul to his portrayal as the clearly more beaten down figure. Elizabeth Banks shines a light as the radiant love interest with a burning worry for the man she’s fallen for, she flicks between these emotions with ease showing she’s not just the typical go to comic actress. Paul Giamatti comes in and out as Landy, the assigned therapist and boy is he overbearing, twisted and yet sensationally interesting as this force of further badness pushing into Brian Wilson’s life.

‘Love and Mercy’ has this almost spiritual quality about it. It’s a film that gives great bittersweet truth to the biopic genre and tells a frankly creative and enthralling story about a real life music genius.

8/10

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