Magazine article Screen International

Love & Mercy

Magazine article Screen International

Love & Mercy

Article excerpt

Dir: Bill Pohlad. US. 2014. 120mins

A more conventional biography of Brian Wilson would attempt to shape the vast arc of his troubled life into a pleasing mixture of highs and lows, tears and triumphs. Love & Mercy takes a different, more impressionistic approach, focusing and contrasting two key periods from his life; the rich success and optimism of the Beach Boys best years in the 1960s and a later time when an unstrung Wilson was far from the limelight at the mercy of a domineering, unscrupulous therapist. The result lacks some of the fine detail and context one might have liked, but still emerges as a weighty, fitting salute to Wilson's restless creativity and a touching celebration of the love that would prove to be his salvation.

If the film feels a little disjointed and elusive that would seem a deliberate attempt to mirror Wilson's fractured state of mind.

Lingering affection for the Beach Boys joyous soundtrack to the sun-kissed promise of a 1960s Summer, respect for Wilson's journey to hell and back and impressive performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack should all help to generate sufficient audience interest for a solid theatrical life although Love & Mercy lacks the more obvious crowd-pleasing elements and carefully packaged emotions of a Ray or a Walk The Line.

The one thing that Love & Mercy absolutely nails is the importance of the music. There are numerous scenes that testify to Wilson's painstaking devotion to creating the most original and multi-layered pop music the world had ever heard. He regards the achievements of The Beatles and Phil Spector as inspirations to try harder.

These scenes have the look of a fly-on-the-wall documentary that D.A. Pennebaker might have shot at the time as Wilson changes a note here, tries a different instrument there, adds the noise of an animal and gleefully breaks all the conventions. You are convincingly made to feel as if you are eavesdropping on what Wilson must have been like at the height of his powers.

In the more contemporary scenes, a middle-aged, heavily medicated Wilson (Cusack) meets car saleswoman Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) and starts a romance that places him on a collision course with Eugene Landy the controversial therapist who has been appointed Wilson's legal guardian and taken control of every aspect of Wilson's life. …

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