Five Reasons You’ll Love It - January 4, 2016

Love & Mercy – Five Reasons You’ll Love It
by Kim
Kim
by Kim hmv Toronto, Bio Music, film, cats, yoga - repeat Canada Editor, hmv.com

Love & Mercy – Five Reasons You’ll Love It

Few lives have been as examined as that of Beach Boys linchpin Brian Wilson, who has packed more drama into his 73 years than seems possible or even sensible.

Documentaries have scrutinized him, notably Don Was’ Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times from 1995 and Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile from 2004, both featuring Wilson himself. Similarly, multiple books – including a Wilson autobiography - have attempted to understand the musician’s virtuosity amid mental illness, substance abuse and some truly gnarly circumstances.

Into this enormously crowded field comes Love & Mercy, a biopic directed by Bill Pohlad, best known as a producer on 12 Years a Slave and Brokeback Mountain. Pohlad's film takes many risks, not least arriving while its subject (who endorsed it) is still alive, his complete story presumably still being written. Yet Love & Mercy is a triumph. As it comes to DVD and Blu-ray this week we tally five reasons why you will love it.

 

Two actors play Wilson, brilliantly…

Paul Dano and John Cusack play Wilson the younger and Wilson the older and both are utterly convincing which is quite an achievement, especially since the film seesaws back and forth between the decades. Both actors manage to locate and convey their character’s complexity – at once gentle yet tortured, sweet but utterly shrewd in the studio. There’s no disconnect between Dano’s Pet Sounds-producing genius and Cusack’s paranoid, over-medicated wreck. In a word, wow.

 

The co-stars are likewise fantastic…

Paul Giamatti’s take on Dr. Eugene Landy - the psychologist who exerted Machiavellian control over the deeply damaged Wilson and who had his license revoked amid accusations misconduct – is 12 kinds of creepy. Also excellent is Elizabeth Banks as the woman who befriends Wilson, helping to extricate him from Landy’s evil control and eventually becoming his second wife.

Love & Mercy
Love & Mercy Bill Pohlad

The music, duh…

Much of the action centres on the making of the seminal Pet Sounds record, widely viewed as Brian Wilson’s solo magnum opus despite carrying the Beach Boys name. It’s fabulous, of course, and the depiction of Wilson directing the famed Wrecking Crew session hands is riveting for music geeks in general and Beach Boys fans in particular.

 

The band gets its due…

Love & Mercy is a Brian Wilson biopic, but Wilson was also a member of the Beach Boys whose mellifluous harmonies, co-songwriting and playing cannot be underestimated. Director Pohlad strives to remind us of that.

 

It offers some new material…

As noted, Wilson’s life has been deeply examined. But for all but hardcore fans, details about his second wife Melinda Ledbetter (played by Banks) and the pivotal role she played in prying him away from Dr. Landy and putting Wilson back in touch with his estranged family is likely to be a revelation.

 

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