Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Movie Review #270: "Love & Mercy" (2014)

Movie"Love & Mercy"
Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: Bill Pohlad
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
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A look into the life of The Beach Boys most prominent songwriter, Brian Wilson (Paul Dano/John Cusack), focusing both on his youth in the 60's while writing the album entitled Pet Sounds and later in life in the 90's when he met and started his relationship with Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). 

The Beach Boys. We probably all grew up listening to their music. At the very least, you'd be able to tell us the name of at least one of their songs. Our favorite song by them is "God Only Knows" off their album Pet Sounds, which unbeknownst to us going in, turned out to be a major part of this film. Knowing very little about The Beach Boys as a band apart from their music, we didn't really know what to expect as far as what a Beach Boys movie would entail.

If you don't know the story of Brian Wilson, there's a lot of compelling, crazy elements to his life that make up a dramatic, entertaining and engaging 2 hour ride. First of all, the movie is split between Paul Dano, who plays the younger version of Brian Wilson (and has always been one of our favorite rising star actors), and John Cusack, Wilson in his older years (who we haven't seen anything good from in quite a while). Paul Dano is brilliant as a younger Wilson, who after a panic attack mid-descent in an airplane, stops touring with the band to work exclusively in studio. He starts to experiment with new types of music, using symphony style instruments and studio musicians, bike horns, sleigh bells and even dogs barking to make his music. During this time, he also started to experiment with drugs beyond marijuana, such as LSD. He also started hearing voices in his head in the '60s, which filmmaker Bill Pohlad conveys wonderfully by displaying a wide range of auditory tactics to make the audience feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, such as loud noises and music, whisper talking that rises to yelling, different instruments starting slow and building in sound, etc. We are able to see Brian's slow decent into becoming unstable and we simultaneously live the strain it puts on the relationships in his life. The film jumps back and forth throughout its run time and when it's not focused on his time with the band making music, it focuses on him later in life, primarily the 90's. It is during this time when Brian, now played equally as excellent by John Cusack, meets and falls in love with Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks, a car saleswoman who has no idea who he is when he walks into her life one day. She does a great job as well. In fact, all of the performances are at the very least quite good, if not exceptionally performed. By this time in his life, Brian has been placed under the care of Dr. Gene Landy, played by the wicked Paul Giamatti. He always does an amazing job playing a smarmy character like Dr. Landy. For the past many years, Dr. Landy has used his diagnosis of Brian Wilson as a paranoid schizophrenic to control every aspect of his life. He over medicates him, treats him like a child, smacks him around, and lives off him like a leech. As Melinda starts to fall in love with Brian, she knows she has to stop this abuse, especially when she learns that Brian has faced some type of abuse for much of his life. This abuse is deep rooted, not only from Gene in the present, but as a child from his own father, who would whip them with a belt and even made Brian almost completely deaf in one of his ears.

Altogether, this is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story all wrapped into one complex film with amazing performances, a real eye-opening story, and of course, as one would expect, some truly memorable and great tunes run throughout the film.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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