If you know little about the Beach Boys buckle up, because Love & Mercy is going to take you for quite a ride. The biopic based on band member and songwriter Brian Wilson will teach you all about the darkness that grew inside of the talented young artist and how it would have completely killed him if it wasn’t for a stroke of fate with meeting car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter.
Love & Mercy is a powerful film with an outstanding cast of actors, although some may not have been right for their roles. It is 100% believable that the always underrated Paul Dano grew up to be modern day Brian Wilson. His singing voice and his costuming makes him eerily resemble the 1960s entertainer. However it is highly unlikely that a presumably early twenty-something Paul Dano grew up to be John Cusack. Cusack does not resemble Dano at all and definitely does not resemble Wilson at all. Do not misunderstand, because both Dano and Cusack give incredibly performances of a person struggling with a mental illness. They just do not seem as if they are telling the story of the same person. The film jumps in between past and future Brian. You know automatically that they are playing the same role yet to still find yourself struggling to believe that Cusack is the same man who is struggling to have others love the music powering out of him in the scenes spliced in during the full run of the film.
As convoluted as the scenes are, the performances are incredible and will leave you on the edge of your seat as Wilson’s story unfolds. You feel downright heartache as you watch the darkness grow inside Dano, and then it take full flight when he ages. There is no clear cut breakdown on Dano’s part, just pieces of him that you see being tormented before Cusack’s character lives in total seclusion and despair. It makes you angry that no one is able to or wants to help Wilson, not even himself when he knows that he is being hurt instead of helped by those he trusts. Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks, is the only one willing to find a way to heal Wilson’s emotional wounds and Banks does a beautiful job of portraying Ledbetter’s struggles. Paul Giamatti plays Dr. Eugene Landy, the doctor in charge of adult Wilson’s medication and affairs, is absolutely terrifying and has one scene that makes you gasp for air when you realize how truly evil he is.
Love & Mercy is an well-done film, chock full of powerful performances from the lead characters. It would have been a better film had both versions of Brian Wilson looked similar to make his aging more believable, but the hurt each one portrays makes you realize just how tormented this man was throughout his life. This is a film that will intrigue audiences who are Beach Boys fans and those who have never even heard their music. The performances alone will have you talking about the drama for days after you experience it.