MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Love And Mercy’ Is The Best Film Of 2015 So Far

Film: Love And Mercy
Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano
Directed By: Bill Pohlad

A tale of one man told with two actors and more heart than any other film in theaters today, Love And Mercy may be the movie to beat in 2015.

You may think you know Brian Wilson, the iconic musical genius behind The Beach Boys, but the new film Love And Mercy reveals to us that even he struggles to know the man whose name is now synonymous with the history of American pop culture. He’s an enigma wrapped in flesh, both complex and shockingly simple, with an undeniable ability to find melodies that can make your soul soar. He’s also a lover, a brother, a father, and a wanderer, though it’s unclear if he ever has a destination in mind.

To present Wilson’s journey, Love And Mercy carefully weaves scenes from Wilson’s youth and adulthood together, using different actors to showcase the different stages in life. Paul Dano is Wilson before, during, and immediately after the release of Pet Sounds. Cusack, tasked with a far heartier challenge, portrays the man turned legend as he is in the 1990s after he’s come under the court-appointed guardianship of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Their individual journeys mirror one another in heartbreaking ways, but they’re each uniquely littered with moments of brilliance too wonderful to deny.

It’s not just the two versions of Brian Wilson that makes Love And Mercy deserving of your time, as the story and supporting cast are just as great. The music of the Beach Boys is always present, but this is a story about the man from whose mind those ideas poured more than the songs themselves. Brian is a puzzle no one can solve, possessing the ability to connect with essentially anyone through song, yet struggling in every way to form the slightest sign of a connection with people in everyday life. He also hears voices and sounds that are not really there, which he attributes to hearing loss in his right ear that he developed from the numerous beatings received from his father during youth. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen, but it is clear throughout the film that there is something off about Brian Wilson. That said, the story isn’t concerned as much with explaining his demeanor as it is exploring the way Wilson interacts with the world around him.

Populating that world is a supporting cast filled with past and future Oscar nominees, including Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks. These actors deliver compelling turns as the people fortunate enough to known Brian–from doctors to lovers–and each has a completely different experience interacting with Wilson than the rest. For Giamatti’s turn as Landy he must control Wilson. For Banks, her role is more about attempting to understand why Brian is the way he appears later in life. For others, the interactions are just as diverse. Some have fun encounters built upon a shared passion for creativity, while some characters only encounter Wilson when he’s too lost in his own mind to be considered present in the real world. In the end, it’s the sum of these experiences that ultimately paints the portrait of Wilson that viewers take home, and it’s a work of art that matches the characteristics of Jackson Pollack’s best work. Messy, yet refined. Delusional, yet ground in reality.

I know it seems a little early to start talking Oscar hype, but Love And Mercy is packed from beginning to end with material and performances worthy of tiny gold trophies. This film is as magical and densely-layered as the man who inspired its creation. It pulls from the greatest mind of American pop music, presents his story, and then places the burden of explaining why things unfolded as they did entirely on the viewers. I don’t know that I have ever experienced a biopic as moving as this one, and I’m not sure such a film will ever again be brought into existence. Love And Mercy is a subtle spectacle, and it deserves all the success in the world.


Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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8 Responses to “MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Love And Mercy’ Is The Best Film Of 2015 So Far”

  1. Kathy Aracena says:

    Can’t wait to see it

  2. Patrick Pine says:

    Agree with this review 100 per cent. Terrific movie and excellent review.

  3. SokaGirlMaria says:

    It’s as wonderful as the review says…….and then some…….

  4. HaulixJames says:

    Thank you for the feedback! I appreciate it.

  5. HaulixJames says:

    Thank you for the kind works.

  6. HaulixJames says:

    You’ll enjoy it. I guarantee it.

  7. Karl Meischen says:

    There is a typo here: John Cusack portrays Brian Wilson from the early 1980s to early 1990–he doesn’t portray “the Brian Wilson from the 1990s.” Dr. Landy lost the lawsuit brought forth by Carl Wilson & Melinda Ledbetter in 1992; it was filed on May 7th, 1990.

  8. HaulixJames says:

    Oh, thank you for this. The film doesn’t actually use timestamps to signify when various things are happening, so I had to guess using the knowledge I have of Wilson’s story and the imagery shown in the film.