Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy

In Theatres: 
Jun 05, 2015
Running Time: 
120 minutes

On the surface The Beach Boys appear to be your typical band living the rock star lifestyle with more fame and fortune than they know what to do with, but behind-the-scenes there was a different story surrounding co-founder and leader, Brian Wilson. Love & Mercy sheds some light on Wilson’s dark and troubled past and the pressure that comes with being one of the biggest bands of the 60’s. It wasn’t all good vibrations.


Director Bill Pohlad approaches Love & Mercy from two distinct perspectives, 1960’s and the 1980’s. The 60’s presents a young Brian (Paul Dano) who suffers a panic attack and semi-retires from touring in order to write what he hopes will be the greatest album the world has ever seen. Those around him think he’s gone a bit mad, but they give him the benefit of the doubt, for a while at least. In the 80’s we see a much older Brian (John Cusack) whose problems have clearly taken a toll on him. His doctor and legal guardian Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) doesn’t help either and is more concerned with controlling Brian than getting him healthy. It isn’t until Brian meets car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), that he can finally break free from Landy’s manipulative grasp.


The film does an excellent job at alternating between these two periods in Wilson’s life. Both Paul Dano and John Cusack do an excellent job at portraying the same person while having two completely different personalities. Dano’s Brian still has this passion to create amazing music, even after he starts hearing voices inside his head. Meanwhile there’s a childlike innocence to Cusack’s Brian who’s in more of a comatose state thanks to Landy’s prescriptions. The entire cast delivers strong performances, and you really get a sense of these dark periods in Wilson’s life.


Love & Mercy isn’t all dark and foreboding, however. Brian does eventually create one of the most influential albums around with Pet Sounds, and he does manage to escape from Dr. Landy and live happily with Melinda. The film chronicles the ups and downs of these two periods of his life, but manages to end on a high note.


Whether you’re a fan of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys or just music in general, Love & Mercy is a fascinating biopic that offers strong performances all around. It’s not one that should be missed.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook