love and mercy

“Love and Mercy,” a Music Biopic that Really Sings

By Ryan Anderson (@randerson_ryan)

Biographical movies are a dime-a-dozen, and there’s certainly no shortage of biographical films about musicians, either, but the unconventional structure and strong performances make “Love and Mercy,” a look at the life and times of Brian Wilson, one of the better entries into the canon.

It’s a wise decision to start the movie with a selection of Beach Boys’ songs, to remind and/or inform the audience how popular they were and how many memorable songs they cut. The rest of the film then uses John Cusack, as older Wilson, and Paul Dano, as younger Wilson, to depict everything from Wilson’s time in the band, his orchestration of the famed “Pet Sounds” album–which Rolling Stone declared the second-best album in history in 2003– his poisonous relationship with his odious father, his struggles with “hearing voices” in his head, falling for Melinda Ledbetter as an older man, and her battle to extract him from under the influence of the warped Dr. Eugene Landy.

Wilson is clearly a tortured musical genius. The scenes of him putting together the revolutionary “Pet Sounds”  with a group of musicians are an extraordinary look inside the process of a musician, and they’re juxtaposed with his vicious, abusive father. Unfortunately for Wilson, he trades one domineering man for another, as Landy is just as shady and manipulative as his old man. The younger Wilson eventually goes totally off the deep end, which is how the older Wilson eventually comes under the spell of Landy. (more…)