Written by Tony Pinto
Still of Paul Dano in Love & Mercy. © 2015 - Roadside Attractions
The film “Love and Mercy” is about Brian Wilson, the legendary singer-songwriter of the Beach Boys. This film brings you the rise, the fall, and the revival of this musical figure.
It tells the tale of two Brians.
The Brian of the past is played by Paul Dano, and the Brian of the future is played by John Cusack. Both do a phenomenal job of playing Wilson. Even Cusack wearing his familiar jet-black dye job doesn’t let that undercut his performance too much. The only major flaw of the film is that John Cusack looks too much like John Cusack and not enough like Brain Wilson.
We can probably all agree that Paul Dano is not growing up to look like John Cusack, but when a movie’s this good you need to nitpick. The intent was for these two actors to be separate and different. It is two completely different portrayals of one man.
This could be an issue for some that there is not enough continuity between the two actors. Most won’t even notice or care that there is no resemblance between the two. In all honesty I would like to point out that I didn’t notice they look nothing alike until I saw a picture of Paul, John, and Brian together.
That picture ruined a little of the mystique for this writer, but again I’m nitpicking because the film is that good. This is ultimately what the film wanted: two actors that were totally different playing the same part.
In Cusack’s story he plays a mentally screwed up, tentative millionaire genius who gets taken advantage of. Somehow he is under control legally by therapist/guru Dr. Eugene Landy played by Paul Giamatti. The relationship between the two is complicated and depressing. You see a man in Brian who knows he needs to escape but can’t figure out how.
Even though Landy is portrayed as this manipulative and controlling person, he did save Brian from the big mental breakdown that he had. Soon after that the relationship became manipulative, controlling, over-medicating and predatory. How a man like Landy ever becomes a doctor is perplexing.
The story of the past with Paul Dano as Brian Wilson is when the Beach Boys are getting famous. Here we start to see the voices in his head come out, the drug addiction start, and his first marriage fall apart. It’s a fascinating thing to see but it’s also sad and depressing to see someone with so many positive things going fall so hard.
Director Bill Pohlad intertwines the two separate Brain’s very well. We can go from a happy Brian hanging with his bandmates to an older Brian being verbally attacked by his doctor. This is something that could easily go wrong, but somehow manages to work.
This may not be the most distributed film out there, which could make it hard for you to see and that is an issue because this is arguably the best film of the year to this date. Whether you like the Beach Boys or not this is one film you should see.
Tony Pinto’s grade: A+