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About the Movie
LOVE & MERCY is an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson (portrayed by both John Cusack and Paul Dano), singer and songwriter for The Beach Boys. The film intimately examines the unique journey and ultimate salvation of this musical icon, whose success came at an extraordinary personal cost. Also starring Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 196
- Fresh: 178
- Rotten: 18
- Average Rating: 7.7/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: When you consider all the ways that "Love & Mercy" could have gone terribly wrong, and how full of life it is in the end (and, yes, of love and mercy), I think the end product is almost miraculous.
Fresh: Unnerving as it is thrilling, as visually and aurally vivid as it is emotionally harrowing.
Fresh: Rather like one of Wilson's records, it's a film of surprisingly effective layers, building towards a hugely satisfying crescendo.
Fresh: Like the sounds and voices that plagued Wilson, Love and Mercy is a musical biopic that gets in your head.
Paul Dano is a fantastic actor, and I think Hollywood has started to realize that over the past few years. If I remember correctly, the first thing I ever saw him in was a small little movie called “Ruby Sparks”. I had never seen this guy before, but I thought he was pretty incredible. And from that day on, I made it my mission to see almost everything he’s ever been in. Of course, a few of them have slipped through the cracks, but I’ve seen the good majority of his on-screen work. Some of my personal favorites include the aforementioned as well as his roles in “The Extra Man” and “Meek’s Cutoff”. And his performance in “Love & Mercy” is no different, I just wish there was more of it.
The film itself is split directly down the middle. As you may know, it’s the story of Brian Wilson (otherwise known as the frontman for The Beach Boys). But it’s by no means chronologically told. We cut to and fro from Brian’s formative years as a musician to his later days when he seems to be manipulated by a greedy therapist out to swindle him. In his younger years, he’s excellently played by Paul Dano, with John Cusack stepping in for the later part of his life. These are two different stories, and two different movies at that.
The one that I was constantly enjoying and couldn’t get enough of was his early years of dealing with quick success, and trying to follow up on that with more genuine music that spoke to the listener. This struggle, the one that is parleyed with his confusion and fractured being that came about as he was much older, is far more interesting. John Cusack definitely tries his best along with Elizabeth Banks to capture that fractured state - and turns in a commendable performance along the way - but it simply can’t measure up to the electricity that is seen when Dano emerges. The result is a somewhat underwhelming movie, one that most definitely would’ve been better if entirely focused on one part of his life. However, one thing is certainly made clear, Paul Dano is sensational.
Review: Love & Mercy
Bob Dylan on Brian Wilson: "That ear — I mean, Jesus, he's got to will that to the Smithsonian."
Bill Pohlad's "Love & Mercy" is a loving cinematic poem to Brian Wilson, leader of the legendary Beach Boys. Breaking free of the conventional tropes that hamstring most biopics about popular artists; "Love & Mercy" lives and breathes. We see not only his creative process but are taken on a trip through his cerebral hemispheres.
"Music is God's voice", Brian Wilson once said. And the sounds in this film are indeed heavenly. If you're a devotee of Brian Wilson and his music and know the story "Love & Mercy" is something of a religious experience. I cannot imagine a better tribute to such an important artist. The film is so exquisitely crafted that any small blemish or wrong note gets lost in the whole texture.
The movie deftly juxtaposes both periods in Brian Wilson's life hinting at the harrowing missing years, in between. Oren Moverman's screenplay is finely crafted so that the story balances 'Brian Past' as he is fracturing just as 'Brian Future' is putting it all back together again. Director Pohlad's recreation of the "Pet Sounds" and "SMiLE" sessions is some of the most magical cinema I have maybe seen, specifically in the biopic genre.
Paul Dano and John Cusack give tour de force performances as 'Brian Past' (1960s) and 'Brian Future' (1980s), respectively. Dano, particularly, embodies his portrayal of the younger Wilson in a way that is all-consuming. Cusack presents the older Wilson as a man who has been through some deep valleys. Both performances harmonize to create a unique portrait.
The supporting performances are strong, as well. Elizabeth Banks as Brian's future wife Melinda and Paul Giamatti as the Svengali-like psychotherapist Dr. Euguene Landy. Melinda slowly realizes the man she meets in the films opening scene, while selling him a Cadillac, is a damaged soul. But she is drawn into his world, presumably because of his tenderness and honesty. She also acts as the audiences conduit into the story of 'Brian Future'. Allowing us to view that portion of the story through the eyes of an active bystander.
Whether being domineered by his father Murry, his cousin Mike Love or later Dr. Landy, Brian Wilson has always been “people-pleaser” as his mother Audree once said. In both the film and in real life, it’s comforting to know that the man that gave us all some of the best popular music in the back half of the 20th century while never fully being content, now feels the mercy and the love.
This is an exceptional film.
Love and Mercy
Dano, Cusack, and Banks shine in this non-linear glimpse into the life of a great artist.