Love & Mercy

“The Beach Boys. For some, the name of the band says it all. But as the surf music masters headed into the mid-'60s, something was cresting and breaking beneath the impossibly rich harmonies of one of America's most iconic pop groups. "Love & Mercy" — starring John Cusack and Paul Dano — is an empathetic account of the band's visionary composer and producer Brian Wilson, who along with brothers Dennis and Carl, cousin Mike Love and their neighbor, Al Jardine, were the Beach Boys.

“Film producer-turned-director Bill Pohlad attempts to craft a movie as complex and lush, ecstatic and wounded as the music Wilson created. And, as it toggles between two different decades in Wilson's life, "Love & Mercy" is often as visually and aurally vivid as it is emotionally harrowing.

“Wilson struggled with mental illness, likely exacerbated by substance abuse. It's heady turf. Dano inhabits the younger Wilson as he embarks on the 1966 album masterpiece "Pet Sounds." John Cusack plays the singer-composer, who by the 1980s is the definition of the walking wounded. Brother Dennis has died. He's only recently gotten out of bed. He's not allowed to see the children he has with ex-wife Marilyn Wilson.

“When we meet him, he's shopping for a car, closely tailed by his bodyguards. Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), a former model, is the saleswoman at the luxury dealership. She doesn't recognize Wilson, which is a point in her favor. There's a whiff of anxiety with hints of kindness and connection when they meet. Paul Giamatti portrays Wilson's ever-present therapist Eugene Landy.

“With its unusual structure and bold casting decisions, "Love & Mercy" exceeds the typical musical-biopic formula. In doing so, it takes seriously the psychological turbulence Wilson began experiencing in his 20s while honoring his extraordinary creativity. That they might be bound to each other is just one more of the movie's complicated insights.” - Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post


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