ByRalph Varlese, writer at
Film/TV lover
Ralph Varlese

PG-13 | 2015 | 120m

Love & Mercy is a Biopic about Brain Wilson of the Beach Boys, but it is much more than that. It is a story of a genius's descent into madness and his return to sanity.

The movie touches on the back-story of the Beach Boys and their success, but it mostly focuses on their later years. Both Paul Dano and John Cusack perfectly portray Brian Wilson. The two actors play him at different ages, but manage to similarly grasp Wilson’s essence.

Left Wilson, Right Dano and Cusack
Left Wilson, Right Dano and Cusack

After suffering a panic attack mid-flight Brain Wilson decides he doesn’t want to tour with the band anymore. Instead he wants to focus on writing. The rest of the Beach Boys agree and while they are on the road Wilson writes and records most the album Pet Sounds. Dealing with the band’s unenthusiastic take on his work as well as his father’s disapproval Wilson starts to slide. He hears voices and becomes more and more depressed.

The story is inter-cut with the older version of Wilson, played by Cusack. We first see him trying to purchase a car, where he meets his love interest Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks. She is selling him the car, but is interrupted by Wilson’s psychologist Eugene Landy, played by Paul Giamatti. Immediately, we sense that there is something odd about their relationship. Turns out, Landy is in total control of Wilson’s life. He tells him what medication to take and when, but more that that, he tells him where to live and who to spend time with. Wilson is basically living as a mental outpatient who at any moment can be committed by Landy.

The younger version of Wilson is driven mad by the people around him, while the older version is ushered back to sanity by Melinda. Dr. Landy however makes this very difficult. He threatens legal action on anyone that goes against what he thinks is best for Brian.

This movie is very well crafted and the acting is superb. I say, “See it.” If you are a Beach Boys fan, you will love to see the story behind the scenes but even if you aren't a fan, you will love the storytelling.


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