Love & Mercy Movie Review
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a good Beach Boys drama to watch this weekend? Don't worry, baby, because Love & Mercy, about the fractured genius of Brian Wilson, offers more than enough good vibrations to make it one of the best movies of 2015.
Starring both Paul Dano and John Cusack as the Beach Boys songwriter, Love & Mercy isn't fun, fun, fun, but it is a California Dreamin exploration of Wilson's mind, who suffers from auditory hallucinations and bipolar disorder (and for a while was misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia). Dano plays the young Wilson, widely regarded as a musical genius whose personal issues slowly drove him out of the band, and Cusack the elder version, a shell of a man who is overprescribed antipsychotics and domineered by his 24/7 therapist and manager Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).
Directed by Bill Pohland, whose only other directorial credit is a 1990 film titled Old Explorers, Love & Mercy is a well-written, well-acted film that presents a side of the Beach Boys few people know, or at least that few people know well. The movie is fast-paced and entertaining, thanks to a compilation of popular Beach Boys songs and strong chemistry between the cast. Dano is superb in a role perfectly suited for him, while John Cusack turns in his best performance in years, one that is notably and thankfully not stereotypical John Cusack. Giamatti is good though squarely delegated to the latter category of Heroes and Villains, but Elizabeth Banks is rock solid as the elder Wilson's California girl.
The movie excels as Pohland and his screenwriters slowly descend into Wilson's mind. The movie plays things fairly mainstream--i.e. no psychedelic dream sequences or other things you might expect from a drama about a man's broken mind--but Pohland, working in coordination with his actors, do justice to Wilson's mental fragility.
Love & Mercy is a surprisingly surfin' movie, one of the year's best. That's why God made the movies.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.