Love & Mercy

RATED - (PG-13) -121-MIN-2014

                                                            "Genius always has a price."  

The word genius is tossed out too often, but: Brian Wilson, the troubled singer/songwriter, and creative mastermind behind The Beach Boy's music, is one.Love and Mercy, the very good bio-pic, about Wilson's heyday in the sixty's with the  band, and his later years, after his breakdown and recovery back to some semblance of a normal life, is a fascinating
glimpse into the musical wunderkind's process.If you are a fan, you will appreciate him more. If you aren't, it will make you want listen to some of his songs on You tube. His gift for harmony, layering tracks, and unorthodox uses for many things musical and other things not, was groundbreaking enough to get the notice of The Beatles. Apparently, there was quite a rivalry out of mutual respect. What a war, and what came out of it, was some of the most memorable songs of that era. The use of psychedelic drugs also seemed to help the creative process for both groups.

Both performances, by the actors portraying Wilson in the two periods, are great.(Paul Dano) plays him in the sixty's, and:(John Cusack) an odd choice, but he is great,
plays him in the eighties, as a tortured, gentle soul. I remember reading a long time ago about Wilson's recovery, and the brutally regimented treatment that his therapist: Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) had implemented.
Landy, was his legal guardian, and he controlled everything in Wilson life. He even refused Wilson to see his two children, and other family members. It seemed pretty suspicious, and later Landy lost his license to practice medicine, or to ever see Wilson.(Giamatti) is a great actor, and he is good at playing this creepy, controlling dickhead.

Brian Wilson from an early age, heard voices in his head. Was this his creativity in another form manifesting itself? Did he have severe metal issues, and did drugs push him over the edge? The movie scratches the surface of these issues, but that's not really the focus of the film. The filmmakers, like  millions of other people in the world, love The Beach Boys and their beautiful and catchy songs. Through wonderfully choreographed studio sessions, where Wilson directs his talented group of studio musicians, while his brothers tour Japan,you see the brilliance of this mans musical mind. When one of the players asks Wilson why there are two different bass lines being played, he responds that it sounded right in his head. When they perform it, and you hear it....he's of course, right.(Dano), who is an different actor, who has made some offbeat choices for roles, is absolutely wonderful in capturing the innocence, and joy this man has while creating his songs. It's the only time he seems happy. He was the perfect choice with his chubby cherub face, and childlike exuberance for his craft.

(Cusack) is more subdued, as he is heavily medicated by Landy; a prisoner in his own mind. In an early scene, he goes to a Cadillac dealership to buy a car. There he meets a saleswoman: Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who is sympathetic to this odd quite man, and he is drawn to her.Banks hits all the right notes as Ledbetter, and you get why she would fall for this broken man. Landy and Ledbetter start to clash, as she sees  what Landy is doing, and he is determined to keep control of Brian. The scenes between (Cusack) and (Banks) are innocent and sweet.

Funny enough, the other members are kind of a footnote in this film, although it is very clear that the group seemed to care about each other. The brothers make jokes about their abusive father, who was once their manager, and how he fucked them all up...Brian, much more than anyone else. They see major changes in their band mate and family member, but the business must go on; especially for: Mike Love (Jake Abel), but the only bad guys are their dad and Landy. They have a good thing going, and they are afraid that Brian is losing touch on reality, with his use of drugs, and long time spent in the studio. 

There is a fantastic sequence in the movie, where Brian (Dano) sits at an upright piano in his father's house, figuring out the chords and lyrics to:(God only Knows) and it is a long tracking shot, as (Dano) actually sings and plays, as his father sits and drinks on a couch behind him. Eager to get what his father thinks of the song, Brian is devastated when his dad doesn't approve, partially because he knows it will bother his son.

I must also mention that the soundtrack, outside of the Beach Boy's songs, is moody and very effective, capturing the sadness, despair, and the strange noises that Brian seems to hear.
As with many creative souls, there seems to be a price for what they do, or act upon. Their passion neglects their loved ones, as much as themselves.
Love and Mercy tries to understand and show us just a bit of this struggle.


You should see this movie.

watch the trailer: