Love and Mercy, 2015
Directed by Billl Pohlad
Starring: John Cusak, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti
Love and Mercy tells the dual story of Brian Wilson. It of Brian Wilson in the 60's, making the album Pet Sounds. And it tells the story of 80's Brian Wilson, who has become broken and confused, and under the watch of his 24-hours a day therapist. The two stories run back and forth from each other, both exploring the genius and sadness of Brian.
I grew up moderately listening to the Beach Boys. My parents owned a Greatest Hits album, and my parents always loved beachy music. But I know extremely little at all about the Beach Boys, and knew virtually nothing at all about Brian Wilson, going into this. However, the simple inclusion of Paul Dano made me interested in this, especially after it started getting fantastic reviews.
The format is simple, the two timelines flip-flop back and forth from each other. The 60's side of the story is filmed almost documentary style, in a hand-held camera way. And the 80's timeline is filmed more like a regular movie, with steadied cameras. The use of these two styles were effective and used quite well. It was an interesting stylistic choice, but I feel it paid off without being too distracting. he pacing of the film is really quite good, and is extremely well-written. We get a great sense of both of these Brian Wilson's, able to understand his mania and his brokenness. Both sides of the story really get us into the head of Brian, but the 80's timeline also gets us in the head of Melinda Ledbetter, the woman Brian meets when buying a car, and decides to date. The characters are given good growth and depth, and are well-written.
As well, the acting in this movie was on point. John Cusak was surprisingly really good. Not that I've seen Cusak in much, but I found him really quite good in this movie. As well, Elizabeth Banks was really, really great. She's another actress I don't really think of as being a fantastic actress, but she impressed me here. But Paul Dano, for me, was definitely the stand out in this movie. Dano has always impressed me with every role he does, but this is definitely some of his best. Dano really immerses himself into the mind of Brian here, and really does some fantastic work. It never comes off as a caricature, and Dano treats Brian delicately, while still making him a human. I just really want to campaign really hard for Paul Dano to finally get an Oscar nomination for his work here. Any chance he could squeeze into the Supporting Actor field?
Anyway, Love and Mercy is fantastic. Definitely one of my favourite films of the year. It's the complete package of acting, writing, directing and style. The costumes are fun and fab, and there's great characters depth and story here. Even if you don't know anything about Brian Wilson (which I didn't!), it's definitely still a film you should see!