Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Love & Mercy: If You're a Beach Boys or '60's Rock Fanatic You Might Enjoy It

Movie Review: Love and Mercy (2014)
Version: Library Borrow

Paul Giamatti is great at playing bad guys. He excels in Love and Mercy as the shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy manipulating Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in this bio pic of Wilson's struggles as the band's creative force with mental health issues. Equally good in his role is Paul Dano as a very young Wilson, who sings a good tune and performs well as the dominant leader of America's preeminent rock band creating the legend and beginning to show the signs of illness. John Cusack puts in a middling performance as the older, weaker Wilson under Landy's devious thumb. Elizabeth Banks is excellent as Melinda Ledbetter, the heroine who takes on Landy and saves Wilson's sanity and soul. Other characters come off as also-features in this sorry story.

That's the best that can be said for this film. You do get to enjoy the best of the Beach Boys classic music and watch it being created, albeit re-imagined in film, based on Wilson's autobiography. But the story is disjointed by the film's technique of jumping between the early days of the band and the "current" days of Wilson trying to stay afloat mentally. Nothing about the presentation seems real, until you get to the stills and news clips shown in the closing credits. The old fuzzy, graininess of the film is a put off in this age of HD clarity. There is a lot of conflict in the film to give it some teeth, but much of it arises from emotional drama, which can drain a film of movement. It simply doesn't work on its own.

If you are a Beach Boys or '60's rock fanatic, you might enjoy Love and Mercy for the music. In that case, sit back with the sound tuned up, close your eyes, and enjoy the ride. But for me, sorry to say, Love and Music was a bust. I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

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