Love & Mercy – Movie Review

Love and Mercy – Review by Frank L.

Directed by Bill Pohlad
Writers: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner (as Michael Alan Lerner) , 1 more credit »
Stars: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks

Brian Wilson was born with a creative musical spark. In that, he was fortunate. He was not so fortunate in having an abusive father; he also at a very young age had the mixed blessing of obtaining fame and a certain amount of fortune as the songwriter of the Beach Boys of whom he was one. But the razzmatazz of performance did not fit easily within his inner being and he opted out leaving his brothers to perform the songs. Internal strains then began to appear. His mental and physical health deteriorated and he became a patient of an over-bearing doctor who effectively made him a captive in his own house and to a large extent controlled his life. Until Melinda, the most glamorous car sales person ever, entered his life when he went, under supervision of his “bodyguards”, to buy a Cadillac. The film is about Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) rescuing him from the doctor’s “extraordinary rendition” which had taken place not in Afghanistan but in sunny California.

The part of Brian as a youth is played by Paul Dano and as a man by John Cusack. Playing a talented but socially unskilled adolescent is not easy as being awkward is the essence of what has to be conveyed. At all times Dano portrays a dude at a slight oblique to his brothers and at a tangent to society in general. In short Dano conveys that while Brian is musically gifted he is socially inept. John Cusack has to convey Brian in a psychotic state where reality and fantasy are hopelessly intermingled. In consequence Brian is a man who has lost all confidence. This state has been exacerbated, if not created by the machinations of the manipulative doctor. The dilemmas which Brian endures as he tries to assert even the smallest act of independence is both brave, as his inner fears are enormous. But also pathetic as any individual act of independence is in reality relatively puny. Cusack under Bill Pohlad’s direction makes a credible fist at this far from easy task ably assisted by Elizabeth Banks, who despite being well groomed to the nth degree, has a fine moral compass which she balances effectively in the part of Melinda.

The entire is strung together with the music of the Beach Boys chiming in in all its wonderful “good vibrations”. The glamour of California with sumptuous houses, beaches and swimming pools, think David Hockney, the gob-smacking beauty of its male and female youth culture and the fractured, brittle lives of its adults are all portrayed in their shiny magnificence which add to a sense of being a privileged visitor as the story unfolds.

In a sense this is a trip down memory lane movie but the songs are as infectious as ever and the story is heart- warming. There is a positive vibe on leaving the cinema as it should be with the Beach Boys catchy tunes buzzing around in the brain.



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