Friday, June 19, 2015


Rated: PG-13

STARS: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Bill Camp
DIRECTOR: Bill Pohlad
GENRE: Biopic

Mental illness is a scary thing. And make no mistake, Love And Mercy is a scary movie about mental illness--a biopic addressing critical periods in the life of Brian Wilson, co-founder and creative genius behind The Beach Boys. It's a tale of redemption. Of walking through the fire and coming out whole again. 

Wilson, who is played in his formative years by Paul Dano, and in middle-age by John Cusack, had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by his doctor, Eugene Landy-- portrayed here with escalating creepiness by the brilliant Paul Giamatti.  Dr. Landy had been appointed as Wilson's legal guardian. He dominated and controlled every aspect of Wilson's life, eventually revealing himself as the actual sick puppy in the story. When a budding relationship develops between Brian and Melinda Ledbetter--a woman who had sold him a car--Landy does everything in his power to quash it. He is over medicating and overprotecting his "sick" client. And then there is Brian's abusive father.

Through it all, Wilson writes and goes into the studio to record new music for the Beach Boys, taking the band in a different direction creatively that not all--especially cousin Mike Love--are happy about. We hear the ethereal music that's playing inside his head. It's eerie, yet beautiful. That sums up the film as well.

Elizabeth Banks, as Melinda, shows off her acting chops as the woman who first falls in love with, and then becomes Brian Wilson's champion--the true hero of the story.

Under the inspired hand of director Bill Pohlad, Love and Mercy is a root-for-the-good-guy, packs a wallop with no punches pulled, yet ultimately touching film experience. 

 In fact, I'd say that anybody who isn't touched by this film is probably crazy. 



Call me crazy then. I absolutely hated this flick. I agree that Paul Giamatti's performance is outstanding – along with his ill-fitting toupee. But in my opinion, Love & Mercy deserves an "F." Why? When a main character, real or fictional, is as self-absorbed as Brian Wilson's character was, I lose patience. Just because someone is considered a musical genius (questionable in my opinion!) doesn't give them license to behave as erratically as Wilson did. Granted, mental illness isn't the same as a common cold. Still, even madness gets pretty boring after awhile. (I felt the same way about Ed Harris' portrayal of Jackson Pollock.)

But the other beef I have with this self-indulgent piece of drivel is the concept of two actors playing the same role. The viewer gets hooked on one story line and resents being pulled away from it by the other. At least the casting of Paul Dano as the younger Brian Wilson had some vague resemblance to the real person. But John Cusack with dyed black hair as the older Wilson? Gimme a break.

I didn't see this particular movie with Tim but I just knew he'd love it. And it's always a lot more fun to disagree on these reviews.

One last bitching point. During the end credits, we see Brian Wilson as he is today, singing "Love & Mercy." He looks as miserable and unhappy now as he did back when he was being manipulated and over-medicated. So much for mental health!