Movie Review: Love & Mercy (Featuring Guest Critic Bob's Dad)
Little Bob: There are fewer genres that adhere to formula as strictly as the Biopic. Take a famous person with an interesting life, dramatize the exciting stuff, leave out the filler, and cast an Oscar-hungry actor who is willing to gain or lose 30 pounds. Because of this, these films usually succeed or fail based on the performance of the lead and your interest in the subject. Love and Mercy proves what a difference one bold stylistic choice can make in the genre and is a much more memorable and powerful film for it.
Instead of following the life of brilliant but suffering Brian Wilson in a chronological order, the film is broken into two key times in his life that both illustrate a significant aspect of his personality. Paul Dano plays a young Brian Wilson at the peak of his career and John Cusack plays an older Brian Wilson struggling with mental illness. Both these sections follow their own story arcs (with the rhythms of a beginning, middle, and end) and both serve to inform the way you view the other Brian Wilson. One of the reasons this choice really works is that the scenes we're presented with don't feel like they exist just because they're following the arbitrary formula of a biopic. This is a movie that values your time and doesn't just paint by the numbers in depicting the highs and lows of a famous person.
The acting is also uniformly terrific. Elizabeth Banks, who is usually delegated to comedic roles, shows tremendous emotional depth, and John Cusack continues a career of interesting acting choices with another strong and subdued performance that could have easily been overplayed. And for the first time ever in a film, I didn't want to punch the normally affected Paul Dano for overacting. Highly recommended.
How Does It Compare to Other Dramas About Famous Musicians?
Better than: Walk The Line, Ray, and every other one I have seen.
Big Bob: Unless you are a big fan of Brian Wilson, you may not have a clue why this movie is called Love and Mercy. This is one reason my sons Bobby and Danny get so frustrated with me. They mention a movie, and I tell them I never saw it. They laugh at me because they insist we all saw it together. The title has nothing to do with the movie, so I would never remember seeing this if they only told me the name of the film. They should have a sub-title, The Beach Boys' Troubled Genius, or something like that. (Yes, just for me.) I saw Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood, so I was not looking forward to seeing him again so soon. I know that was made in 2007, but maybe still maybe not enough time. But I really like John Cusack, so I figured why not go see a movie I will not remember seeing in two months. I saw Elizabeth Banks in the previews and that helped peak my interest.
Paul Dano was great in this movie. John Cusack gives one of the best performances of his career, and Elizabeth Banks was terrific. The Beach Boys made some really good music back in the day, and this showed why Brian Wilson was considered to be such a genius. They shift seamlessly between the long ago past and the more recent past, and it is incredibly effective. While their dad is not on a par with Michael Jackson's dad, he is not the kind of guy for whom they make those warm and fuzzy Father's Day cards.
After the movie was over, I realized that I had actually seen the Beach Boys in concert. They had a tour with Chicago, and it was called the Beachago tour. I kid you not .I saw them at MSG in NYC in NYC. Brian Wilson was not on that tour. When I got home I googled Pet Sounds to see why it was considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. I got bored reading the article, but I'll take their word for it. Watch the movie instead. The list of songs would not give it away, but “God Only Knows” is on it.
Stars: 4 and half out of 5. It might have gotten 5 but because of that stupid title, I will forgot that I saw it when my kids bring it up in conversation in a few months , and they will laugh at me. Again.
What to Bring: flip-flops. There are so many scenes around the pool, you will be afraid of getting your shoes wet. And your I-pod. If you don't have any Beach Boys songs on your play list, you might want to add some after seeing this terrific biopic.
Big Bob's Oscar Prediction: John Cusack will win the award for Best Actor, Elizabeth Banks will win the award for best dress on the red carpet.. While he is making his acceptance speech, Cusack will taunt Paul Dano, saying: “There it is, that's a straw, you see? Watch it. Now, my straw reaches acroooooooss the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I... drink... your... milkshake!”