Love & Mercy Review

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Beach Boys' genius Brian WIlson (John Cusack) as two moments in his life, his creative heyday in the 60s and his 80s unravelling.


A thoughtful portrait of Beach Boys genius-in-residence Brian Wilson, Bill Pohlad’s film flits between two distinct phases in Wilson’s life: the ’60s Wilson (Paul Dano), struggling with his demons to create his masterpiece, Pet Sounds, and the ’80s Wilson (John Cusack), a broken, mentally ill man under the shady scrutiny of therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

The film is great on the the realities of making music (watch Dano cajole cellists to get the right sound for Good Vibrations) but equally fascinating on Wilson’s deterioration as Landy battles for his soul with girlfriend Melinda (Elizabeth Banks). Perfectly played by Dano and Cusack, it’s the film Wilson’s talent deserves: original, smart and affecting. And it goes without saying that the tunes are sublime.

This is the film Brian Wilson’s talent deserves: original, smart and affecting.