Review – Great Performances Highlight Poorly Told “Love & Mercy”

If there is one thing that I learned from “Love & Mercy” it is that Brian Wilson is one fascinating guy.  From his days as the brilliant singer and song writer of The Beach Boys, to being a strung out, paranoid schizophrenic who’s lost everyone, he is as interesting and compelling a human being I have ever seen on screen.

Unfortunately, this biopic is not as interesting as the man.

“Love & Mercy” follows Wilson at two different times in his life.  We follow Brian Past (Paul Dano) as he rises top of the music world with The Beach Boys.  The second part is Brian Future (John Cusack) as he is under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giammati) and meets Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who is not a fan of how Landy treats Wilson.  The two stories are intertwined with one another, jumping back and forth between past and future.

Out of the two Brians, it is Dano who really stands out, giving his best performance since 2007’s “There Will Be Blood”.  Putting on some weight and actually singing in some scenes, Dano really conveys the misunderstood genius brilliantly.  The best scenes in the movie are when Wilson is in the studio, mixing all sounds, from pianos, to bongos, to even dogs, all to get the perfect sound.  Dano’s performance is one of the year’s best so far.

Cusack as Brian Future is good as well, but nothing close to the great actor’s best.  He does convey the the tortured soul of Wilson well, but his performance is filled with a lot of nervous twitches and awkward squints.

Elizabeth Banks gives an endearing performance as the only sane person in Future Brian’s life.  It is one of her better performances, as she shows compassion for Wilson and resentment towards Dr. Landy and his practices.  And speaking of Landy, Paul Giammati kills it yet again, proving he can do almost anything.  I like Giammati as a person but man, did he make me hate him in this movie.  He plays the manipulative and scummy Landy perfectly.

The problem I had with this movie was with the script.  Written by Michael A. Lerner and Oren Moverman, the script seemed like it was missing a few scenes that would have gave the movie a more cohesive story.  We see glimpses of Brian Past’s schizophrenic personality, but we never get a full grasp on how that really affected him, his music, and family.  There are a few lines of dialog about it and maybe one scene, but nothing that gave us a full idea as to how severe it was.  Also, the Brian Future story was all over the place.  They did not spend enough time with him during that time in his life for me to really care as much as I should have.

“Love & Mercy” would have played out better using a basic bio-pic plot instead of the jumping back and forth between Past and Future.  Moverman did something similar in 2007 with the fantastic Bob Dylan avant-garde biopic “I’m Not There” and it worked in that film but not so much in this one.  If the film had followed the bio-pic standard, watching Wilson grow as an artist, then fall due to drugs and ego, and then his run in with Landy, it would have been a more powerful and a better film.

Brian Wilson has lived one heck of a life.  He is a tortured, complex, brilliant man who has gone through things nobody else has.  It’s just a shame the movie doesn’t do him and his life justice.  The performances are there, but give this movie a linear storyline and a more seasoned director and we might be in business.”Love & Mercy” is far from a bad movie, but it wasn’t the one Wilson deserved.

MY RATING: 2.5/4

Follow me on Twitter @kevinwoz2988 for more movie news and reviews.

Image courtesy of YouTube via MovieClips Trailers.

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