The Weight Of Brilliance: A Review of ‘Love And Mercy’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 09, 2015
The Weight Of Brilliance: A Review of ‘Love And Mercy’

Pictures about the lives of actual people, are always tricky even at the best of times but when you are diving into the mind of a creative genius things may not always be as they seem.  Love & Mercy hits all the rights notes of your standard music bio doc but manages to get a little deeper into the genius and the psychoses of one Brian Wilson.

Chronicling the life and times of the man behind that Beach Boys sound Brian Wilson.  In the 1960’s when Brian (Paul Dano) were on the rise and Brian was at the height of his genius and his affliction hearing voices as he made Pet Sounds and his own Smile Sessions.  And in the 1980’s when a fragile post nervous breakdown Brian (John Cusack) is under the influence of a shady psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti) and only with the help of his new friend Melinda Ledbetter will Brian be able to truly get better.


Rather than take the tact of a traditional bio pic, Love & Mercy takes some trippy time jumps and genuinely makes an effort to give us a portrait of the damaged psyche that was and in many ways always will be Brian Wilson.

A veteran producer in his first directorial effort since 1990, director Bill Pohlad manages to work without any preconceived notions or precepts.  It has a certain sense of frenetic energy about it that matches the time period to a damn tee.  The script from Oren Moverman and Michael A Lerner doesn’t try to jam us with facts or bullet points about his career, instead we get a man having to deal with the maddening burden of genius as it threatens to eat him alive.  This is not just the story of a career but the story of a psyche, both at its breaking point and when it ultimately gets better and is finally healed.  There’s no easy way to tell the story of this man, but instead they put us in his head and it worked to near perfection.

Paul Dano as young Brian Wilson was absolutely inspired as we saw him embrace the ego and the lack of ego in the man simultaneously.  He knew how good he was even if no one else did and at the end of the day was craving the love and respect from his father and former manager that he just knew he’d never get.  On the flipside of the coin, John Cusack was surprisingly poignant as the broken version of Brian Wilson who was just reaching out into the world at the end of the tether provided to him by his shifty therapist.  Admittedly Paul Giamatti goes more than a little overboard as the nefarious Dr. Eugene Landy but it kind of works and it makes for a fun dynamic as Elizabeth Banks in her love interest role just tries to get Brian away Landy as she sees his abuse first hand. love-and-mercy-john-cusack-2

If your just a Beach Boys fan looking for your A-typical bio pic then this might not be for you, but for music fans or even anyone with a creative spirit who wants a glimpse into the personal and emotional sacrifices that these works of art take then Love & Mercy will be right up your alley.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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