My sudden fascination with The Beach Boys and their later albums has led me on a sort of treasure hunt around the arts to uncover what I can about their past, present and inevitable future. A stroke of good luck landed right in front of me when I discovered this, a phenomenal looking biopic on the infamous Brian Wilson, a founding member of the tumultuous boy band. Following his battle with mental illness and relationship with those around him, it’s more of a Wilson biopic than a Beach Boy biopic.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In a world now flooded with the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman and The Dirt, it’s occasionally nice to see a truly touching and well written biopic that captures both the scope and brevity of its scenarios. Director Bill Pohlad manages to encapsulate the erratic behaviour and dangerous style of life that Brian Wilson led, and how Dr. Eugene Landy kept him that way.
With a strong dual role from Paul Dano and John Cusack playing Brian Wilson, their performances are certainly the main stake of the movie. It’s nice to see Cusack playing a role that doesn’t instantly fill him with regret and me with contempt, and by all accounts this is the most recent good movie he’s made. Dano and Cusack are both as impressive as one another and although they play roughly the same person, their takes on the singer are completely different, reflecting on the stages of his life.
It’s an excellent portrayal by the two of them, aided along well by supporting performances from Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter and the always promising Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy. The real-life story between Wilson and Landy is interesting to me, and it’s nice to see that it gets a solid enough adaptation on the big screen. Landy’s presence is oddly brief and I thought there would’ve been more of him, but Giamatti works wonders with the time he’s given.
What’s even better is how we see the work on Pet Sounds, and the extreme lengths that Wilson (at this stage played by Dano) went through to make one of the greatest recorded albums. His own mental health gets the better of him, and it’s a topic the film isn’t going to shy away from, producing some touching and feverishly strong emotional centrepieces to a film that wouldn’t have worked without them.
A stunning portrayal of an incredible musical talent, Love and Mercy is a superb study of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys to a lesser extent. With incredible performances and a solid piece of direction, the only thing stopping the movie from being anything more than good is its lack of focus.