Movie Review: Brian Wilson’s ‘Love And Mercy’

Author: Bill Dudley

A somewhat overlooked biographical film from early summer is getting a lot of new buzz lately, and not just because it is now available on home video.

“Love And Mercy” is the tortured story of Hawthorne native Brian Wilson, who rose to fame with brothers Carl and Dennis, while still a teenager with the Beach Boys in the mid 1960’s. After huge early success with surfing and car songs, Brian sought a change in the music, and his life. He stopped touring with the group at the peak of their popularity, and started writing what is considered to be one of the greatest Pop/Rock album of all time, Pet Sounds.

This was such a complex endeavor that Brian started having a mental breakdown. “Love And Mercy” is basically a two act play jumping back and forth from 1966 to some 25 years later, when Wilson has completely hit rock bottom. His life is under the dominance of a man known as Eugene, (Paul Giamatti) who seemingly has no interest in really helping Brian, just controlling his every move. On a lark one day to buy a Cadillac, Brian meets Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), who would not only sell him a car, she would become his wife, and eventually lead him to a much happier life, after 25 years of misery, and in spite of Eugene.

“Love And Mercy” is a labor of love from director Bill Pohlad, and features John Cusack as the older Brian Wilson, and one of today’s very best male actors as the younger Brian, Paul Dano. You may have seen him in “There Will Be Blood.” Paul owns his roles, and even sang a little in the film, mixed in with original Beach Boy music tracks. Over the weekend, Paul and Elizabeth Banks appeared together at a SAG screening of “Love And Mercy.”

Paul said playing a living musical legend was his greatest challenge to date. Brian & Melinda Wilson are still together after more than two decades, and invited both Paul and Elizabeth top come on stage at the Vibrato Grill and Jazz Club the other night. Paul got to sing briefly with Brian and his 10 piece band that included another original Beach Boy, guitarist Al Jardine. Brian and Melinda loved the movie, and the actors who portrayed them. You will too, no matter what genre of music you are partial to. “Pet Sounds” changed the world of rock music forever blending Jazz, Classical, and even the famous studio band the “Wrecking Crew” into the mix. Paul McCartney said he was strongly influenced by it, when recording “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” a year later. “Love And Mercy” is a dynamic film that pulls no punches and a true story. Don’t miss it!

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