'Love and Mercy' captures the musical talent of Brian Wilson

Directed by Bill Pohlad

There is no doubt that Brian Wilson is both extremely talented and an individual who is hurting deep down, as seen in Bill Pohlad's new film, Love & Mercy. The film succeeds at telling Brian Wilson's story, but at times the editing is very choppy. Paul Dano is convincing as a young Brain Wilson, however there are some issues with seeing John Cusack as a much older Brian Wilson. The songs are all there as they go through the surfer-boys phase, right up too Brain Wilson's Smile. Yes, Love & Mercy captures the musical talent of Brian Wilson and his personal issues, however it lacks the social background of the era.

The film is a cross-story between the older and younger Brian Wilson. In the 1960s a young Brian Wilson (Paul Dano), a songwriter and recording professional, finds success with chart topping hit records. After facing a panic attack while on stage, Wilson resigns from performing and in the recording studio he is determined to make the greatest album ever made, Pet Sounds. As with any boy band, there is a slow disintegration of both The Beach Boys, while Wilson's mental health slowly deteriorates as he starts hearing voices. In the late 1980s Wilson (John Cusack) is a middle-aged man broken and confused and under the control of psychiatrist and therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), who meets the broken down Wilson, is determined to save him from Landy's manipulation.

These two versions of Brian Wilson are edited together in order to create the story, that sometimes feels non-sequential and is jarring from time to time. A great example of this could be a younger Brian Wilson recording a track fallowed by a broken middle-aged Brian Wilson in the middle of a breakdown. There is a sync at the very end as the younger Wilson and older Wilson are both at the lowest point in their lives, and like that Barenaked Ladies song states, are lying in bed like Brian Wilson. There is one of the best scenes for cinematography of the of the year, when a younger Brian Wilson experiments with drugs for the first time with a very wide-eyed Paul Dano and some natural beauty. Getting back to Paul Dano, it can be said that he is the star lead actor in this film. Hopefully he is recognized when award season rolls around. One thing that is to be agreed upon is that The Beach Boys and Brain Wilson created musical harmony that will live on to be some of the great hits and revolutionary tunes in the history of the music industry. However capturing the turbulent and changing times of the era is missing from this harmony. 

Rating: 3.5/5

The film and soundtrack are currently available via digital download. Love & Mercy will be released to DVD on Tuesday, September 15th.


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