Love & Mercy


Action / Biography / Drama / Music


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September 02, 2015 at 12:07 PM



Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter
John Cusack as Brian Wilson - 1980s
Paul Dano as Brian Wilson - Past
Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy
870.49 MB
23.976 fps
2hr 1 min
P/S 7 / 114

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by zadkine 10 / 10

Band of Brothers

I had no idea what this film was about. I thought it would be another musical biopic like "Walk the Line" or "Ray". It's nothing like those movies. This is the most intense, in-depth, and soulful look at the fragility of the creative mind since "All That Jazz". "All That Jazz" is the best film ever made about choreography and dance, this is the best film ever made about rock 'n roll. Dark, often depressing, but also exhilarating, "Love & Mercy", like "All That Jazz", captures the sense of loneliness and despair many creative geniuses suffer. And when the music starts, it's cool, loud, and breathtaking. "A Beautiful Mind" is the best film ever made about mental illness, because it's an unflinching and compassionate portrait rendered with remarkable artistic skill by director Ron Howard and acted by Russell Crowe. "Love & Mercy" is its equal: Director Bill Pohlad tells an equally moving story of a man's mind falling apart, every bit as skillfully as Ron Howard, and the performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack are each Oscar worthy - as was Russell Crowe's. And first and foremost, I found it to be one of the most painful and frightening portrayals of a tyrannical father ever put on film. Brian Wilson was surrounded by monsters, real and imaginary. In many ways the Beach Boys were a performing family, like the Osmonds or the Jackson 5, a band of brothers at the mercy of a brutal father. I could go on and on,there's a lot going on here - it's a terrific love story too - this movie delivers on so many levels.

Reviewed by Brent Hankins 9 / 10

A complex, unorthodox and emotionally resonant biopic.

While I generally enjoy most music biopics, it's hard to argue with the fact that most of them tend to subscribe to a very familiar pattern. Every once in awhile, a film comes along that break the mold - Todd Haynes did it in 2007 with I'm Not There, which featured six different actors portraying Bob Dylan at various points in his career. That film's writer, Oren Moverman, offers a similarly unconventional approach to Love & Mercy, which hones in on two critical periods during the life of Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson.

We first encounter Brian (Paul Dano) during the 1960s, shortly before the band is scheduled to head out for a tour of Japan. Reluctant to return to the road, Brian convinces his brothers that he belongs at home in the studio, where he'll be more effective at creating the band's next album. The boys finally acquiesce, and Brian hires a collection of studio musicians to begin crafting what would ultimately become Pet Sounds.

Our next encounter with Brian comes during the 1980s, where he's portrayed by John Cusack. Brian meets, and attempts to court, Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), but she quickly discovers that Brian's life is not his own when she meets Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), his therapist and legal guardian. Landy controls every aspect of Brian's existence, from his diet to his personal relationships, all the while insisting that he has Brian's best interests at heart.

The film frequently cuts between these two periods in Brian's life. We see the depths of his imagination and creativity as he employs a range of nontraditional elements to record Pet Sounds, desperately trying to bring to life the music he hears in his head, and all the while sliding further and further into the grip of severe mental illness. And we see the results of that illness, as Brian becomes a timid, broken man, cut off from his friends and family, allowing himself to be controlled and manipulated, and never able to find peace.

Director Bill Pohlad does a marvelous job of illustrating the parallels between each on screen version of Brian Wilson, and both actors give brilliant, emotional performances. Dano in particular turns in what can arguably be called the best work of his career, perfectly embodying Brian's childlike glee as he excitedly flits around the studio, and capturing the anguish and desperation as his mind continues to deteriorate.

Unorthodox in its approach and admirable in its complexity, Love & Mercy wisely chooses not to paint a definitive portrait of a man whose life couldn't possibly be summed up in a two-hour film. By confining the narrative to these two specific chapters, we're able to go far beyond the surface and reveal the inner workings of a tortured genius, and shed light on a story that few people are familiar with. Love & Mercy is a truly exceptional film about the internal and external struggles of a truly exceptional person, and is one of the most emotionally resonant experiences I've had with a film this year.

Reviewed by nerdgirlism 10 / 10

"Love and Mercy" makes me SMiLE

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite band is The Beach Boys, and my favorite musician is their leader, Brian Wilson. I first got deep into their music last November when I heard their album SMiLE, an album which wasn't officially released until 45 years after its conception and recording. It was worth the wait, as I consider it the best album I've ever heard.

I found out that a biopic of Wilson was in the works, and would be screening at SXSW with Wilson in attendance. I knew I had to go and see this film. The experience is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life as one of the most emotionally powerful events I have been a part of.

Love and Mercy is the story of The Beach Boys' founder Brian Wilson. The film chronicles his rise to fame in the 1960's and the his decline into mental illness, and his escape from the control of his therapist in the 1980's.

Paul Dano plays Wilson in the 1960's, and John Cusack plays him in the 1980's. It also stars Elizabeth Banks as Wilson's future wife, Melinda Ledbetter, and Paul Giamatti as his therapist, Eugene Landy.

Paul Dano exudes the boyish look of young Wilson perfectly. He relearned how to play piano for the role, and sings much of the music in the film.

His performance is hard to watch at times because of how depressing it is seeing him devolve from an energetic, fun young man into a tortured, drained artist. Dano handles the role with passion and care, and his performance never feels forced or fake.

When Wilson begins to suffer a panic attack, anyone who's had one will feel deeply for him. When he starts to have physical symptoms of depression after years of physical and mental abuse from his father and disapproval of his musical direction from fellow band mate Mike Love, Dano portrays the hurt that comes from those events with subtle facial expressions and natural transition.

John Cusack looks less like Wilson physically, but his performance may be even more complex. His Wilson has been to the bottom, and he brilliantly portrays how challenging it is to rebuild your life after going through mental and physical anguish.

Elizabeth Banks has a great departure from her more well known comedic film roles, and as Ledbetter, she shows her strength and respect for the man she loves through actions and subtle expressions instead of overt, over the top dialog.

Paul Giamatti has the most campy role in the film as Eugene Landy, but this is unfortunately how Landy was in real life. He was as violent and controlling over Wilson's life as the movie portrays, so his abusive, manipulative, angering performance is highly accurate.

One of the best things about Love and Mercy is that it doesn't exaggerate or make up events to make the film more interesting. The filmmakers trust the strength of its source material is interesting enough to make for a great story.

The storytelling structure of the movie is interesting and risky. The film jumps from the 60's to the 80's without warning, and it works. The slightly askew technique allows the audience to experience the downfall and uprising of Wilson's life simultaneously, and allows the movie to end on a happy note.

One complaint people have is that the film skips over the 1970's, Wilson's most tumultuous period in which he weighed 300 pounds and spent the majority of three years in bed, crippled by depression and drug addiction. However, this allows the audience to examine the reasons for his downfall and redemption instead of indulging in the horrible escapism Wilson turned to.

Beach Boys fans will appreciate the movie more than the average film-goer. Mike Love in hats, dancing, and mentioning "the formula"? Check. Drug tent and piano in the sandbox in Wilson's living room? Check. The infamous "Fire" session? Check. Everything is on point, from the scarily accurate wardrobe down to recreating the "Sloop John B." and "Surf's Up" promo videos shot for shot. It's these moments that show the film was made by fans with an attention for detail.

Almost every song on the album Pet Sounds is featured in the film somewhere. Seeing Wilson's unorthodox recording techniques is such a pleasure for music nerds.

Cinematographer Robert Yeoman, best known for creating the look of Wes Anderson's films, blends stylistic tone with realistic camera work, creating a sense of false nostalgia that is surreal yet inviting and intense.

Composer Atticus Ross works wonders with the score, using a great wealth of Wilson's music in different ways and choosing songs that fit with the emotional tone of the scene brilliantly. Hearing the instrumental version of "Don't Talk" play as Wilson takes LSD for the first time is haunting. Witnessing the song "Til' I Die" play over a surreal, Kubrickian scene in which Wilson has an epiphany made me cry because of the powerful combination of imagery and music.

The film is being released on June 5, to capitalize on The Beach Boys music being a staple of the summer, but it feels more like a Thanksgiving release to me. The cinematography, acting, script, and score are all Oscar worthy in my opinion, but the film may get lost in the race to other contenders, which is a shame.

Love and Mercy is an awesome, unorthodox biopic that takes risks with form and narrative that has strong performances, script, cinematography, and of course, an amazing soundtrack. It will expose young people to the brilliance of Wilson's music and give older fans an insight into why Wilson is the poster boy for using creativity as an escape and an outlet from the pain of life and mental illness.

And seriously, listen to the album SMiLE.

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