The parallel timelines work well, at least as an alternative to the usual linear biopic tropes. The segments with Cusack and Banks are perfunctory, workmanlike and a little heavy-handed. By contrast, Paul Dano's performance is extraordinary, fully capturing the frustration of a young man desperately trying to manifest the wonderful music he hears in his head, increasingly obfuscated by louder voices.
"Even the happy songs are sad!" This Beach Boys fan takes delight in the fact that "Love & Mercy" avoids nearly all the cliches of the biopic by honing in on two select periods in the life of the brilliant and melancholy Brian Wilson: the creation of his masterpiece "Pet Sounds" and his second wife's quest to rid him of the pervasive influence of Dr. Eugene Landy. The result is one of 2015's most powerful dramas.
In the vast ocean of clichéd rock star biopics, this plunge into the troubled but brilliant mind of Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson, wisely tries to avoid much of the saccharin and focuses only in two of the most important events that led Wilson to his much publicized mental disruptions, without neglecting his sparks of genius, both instances are treated with visual and sonic sensitivity.
A total surprise. Expected the standard Hollywood biopic and almost avoided the theatrical run. Instead we have a capture of distorted genius, prescription destruction and (near) divine creation. Love or hate The Beach Boys one must admit Wilson's production work was extraordinary creating some of the most stunning soundscapes ever captured in pop. The dual narrative in the end works well. A film for music fans.
Tour-de-force acting (Dano is feral as the young Brian Wilson; Cusack counterpoints perfectly as older version with naif-like vulnerability) + artful cinematography (Robert Yeoman's sins from Feig's SPY washed clean) + sharp writing (Oren Moverman sneaks in a joke about Matzo ball soup) + freaky deeky sound design = Bill Pohlad's exceedingly metaphorical biopic that screams "I AM ART!". Extra point: Elizabeth Banks.
Set to please cinephiles and music lovers alike, Love & Mercy truly is a collective effort of great beauty and touching, raw filmmaking. Powered by phenomenal performances by Dano and Cusack, the film justifies its title, living off pure vibrations that weren’t made for these times, or any times for that matter, for its protagonist still continues to transcend time.
Biopics usually condense "great men" into boring, conventional characters, and L&M does a good job of generally avoiding these pitfalls—there's some truly sophisticated filmmaking, particularly the sound design, while the split narrative creates mesmerizing psychodrama that can stand apart from Brian Wilson fandom. The chief flaw is act 3, where the film finally succumbs to the "then this happened" jumble of biopics.
A dreamlike film in tone and cinematography, but a drearily sad, sometimes soul-crushingly so, experience all the more. Everyone involved gives one of their strongest performances to date, specifically Dano, who is so close to an Oscar nod he can probably taste it. Few actors can played disconnected and closeted geniuses so well.