"Love & Mercy"

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"Love & Mercy"

Post by Wallingford » Tue Dec 15, 2015 11:55 am

I just thought, before we get inundated with Star Wars posts, that I'd comment on a film I recently saw, Love & Mercy--the story of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson's struggle out of mental illness.

Wilson began losing it around 1964, when he threw a tantrum on a plane on tour. (The movie, however, puts the date at two years later.) The film settles down to its first plot element after a long montage of the group's career in the early 60s; this plot element focuses on the making of the Pet Sounds album. Let me say right now that Pet Sounds is an album I admire very much, chiefly for its effects in instrumentation and its vocal counterpoint. What I don't like about it is that it's so locked into one mood--that of despondency.....it's an album which a depressed person should stay away from. Despite this overriding flaw, I'm oftentimes forced to conclude that Pet Sounds is one of the major works of the last third of the twentieth century. Many the world over consider it the greatest album ever.

The explorations of Brian's musicality are very well done, particularly in his interactions with the numerous orchestral musicians, in perfecting his piece, although this movie gives one the impression he could actually read music (didn't he have a copyist-transcriber to aid considerably in getting it all down on paper?).

I don't have too much complaint with the casting of two actors--Paul Dano as the young Wilson, John Cusack as the older Brian--though their faces do look significantly different. Perhaps this helps, however, in navigating one's way through the sudden flashbacks, coming without warning.

The film does do a good amount of exploring Brian's mental illness, particularly in the flashback scene where his abusive father knocks the side of his face, the suction from his ear causing permanent deafness in that ear--we are taken into Brian's head, with the tell-tale high-pitched white noise of tinnitus. But I really do feel the film doesn't delve deeper into the depths of Brian's emotional ailment. There was an extremely long fallow period where he was completely immobilized and, in addition to his drug addictions (under the prescription of his moching live-in psychiatrist Eugene Landy), his weight eventually grew to 300. The film should have spent a good deal of time exploring this period as well (mid- and late-70s, early 80s), where the casting people should have picked a third actor to play the obese Brian--or perhaps have either Dano or Cusack go on one of those Robert De Niro diets to mushroom them up!

What the movie focuses on is the burgeoning relationship between Wilson and the woman who'd eventually become his wife, Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), and her aid in his spiritual quest to find and get back his creativity. The film's closing credits start with concert footage of the real Brian Wilson today.

The casting department hit on some real ringers for the members of the Beach Boys. All in all, an entertaining film, but one I expected to be a lot better.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: "Love & Mercy"

Post by Ricordanza » Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:33 am

Thanks for your review. I enjoyed this film, but as you note, it has its flaws.

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Re: "Love & Mercy"

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 9:20 am

Thank you for the post, Neil, but I doubt very much that we are about to be "inundated" with posts about the latest in the Star Wars franchise.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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