Posted Dec 08 2015

Love & Mercy - God Only Knows - This Movie Rocks

Dir: Bill Pohlad

Starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Bannks

A fractured portrait of a fractured mind, Pohlad’s film takes two time periods from Brian Wilson’s life and casts two actors as the Beach Boy genius who bear little or no resemblance to the each other. In the case of Paul Dano, he does make the effort to both look and sound like the mid 60s pop savant. But Cusack – he just looks like Cusack.

But both men deliver remarkable performances in this remarkable movie, both in their own way capturing the damaged soul of the great songwriter. Intercutting between two key moments in Wilson’s life – the recording of Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations, and his mid ‘80s attempt to come back to the world and escape the clutches of the manipulative Dr Eugene Landy (a brilliantly obsequious, compulsive Giamatti), Pohlad uses his sometimes impressionistic movie to try to look inside the mind of the creator in the 1960s sections, and to try and find what remains of the man’s heart and soul in the 1980s. Dano and his director cleverly play on exploring the voices in Wilson’s head, trying to follow his search for the music in his mind that only he was privy to, until his attempts to bring it to life drive him over the edge. It’s an almost impossible task for the filmmaker and, as it transpired, Wilson himself, but the director goes a long way to suggest at least a part of Wilson’s experience.

When we join him in the ‘80s, Wilson is a different animal, but noticeably the same man. Cusack slowly and subtly draws us in, allowing his own mannerisms to fade away into Brian, delivering one of his finest performances, full of sadness and loss and pain, but also suffused with a kindness and hope.

Wisely avoiding the clichés of most standard biopics, Love & Mercy is anything but standard. Indeed, it’s anything but a biopic. It’s a look at a man through two junctures of his life, overlapping and swapping position in his psyche as it unfolds. It is blessed with two very different but very connected, and very impressive, performances, and a decidedly strong sense of storytelling. Oh yeah, and did we mention its got a great soundtrack? One of the most involving, impressive films of the year so far.


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