* I received a DVD of Love & Mercy in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.
There has been a lot of drama and controversy surrounding the members of the 1960’s surf-heavy band The Beach Boys, but the story hasn’t quite been told in such an intimate manner as Love & Mercy, written by Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman.
In the 1960s, young songwriter and recording savant Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) finds himself in the midst of extraordinary success after scoring numerous hit records with The Beach Boys. Following a panic attack, he resigns from concert touring and ventures into the studio intent on creating “the greatest album ever made”, Pet Sounds. Meanwhile, his grip on reality slowly loosens as he attempts to cope with the overwhelming voices in his head. Later, in the 1980s, a middle-aged Wilson (John Cusack) is shown to be a broken, confused man under the pharmacological and legal thrall of his abusive therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). After meeting Wilson, Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) is determined to save him from Landy’s manipulation.
While John Cusack plays Brian Wilson after his prime flawlessly, my attention was drawn to Paul Dano, who plays Wilson early on in his career. You may remember Dano as Dwayne Hoover in the critically acclaimed Oscar winner Little Miss Sunshine. He spread his wings effortlessly in Love & Mercy and plays the role to perfection. His descent into his own private madness is believable and never forced. Cusack is a master of the role in his own right. He had to play a rebuilt Wilson, a normalized version of his former self, if you can call it “normal”.
If you are new to The Beach Boys or a diehard fan, you will probably enjoy Love & Mercy. It’s beautifully told, shot with expertise, and lets the viewer get lost in the story of Brian Wilson. Find the DVD everywhere DVDs are sold.