Love & Mercy Review (TIFF2014)

Posted 7 years ago by myetvmedia


“Love & Mercy” reveals that genius is a blessing and a curse, delving inside the life and mind of famous Beach Boys’ band member Brian Wilson. Bill Pohlad brings his second feature to the screen with a touching look inside one of the most brilliant and mentally troubled musical talents of our time. “Love & Mercy ” opened as a World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cast: John Cusack (Brian Wilson), Paul Dano (Brian Wilson), Elizabeth Banks (Melinda Ledbetter), Paul Giamatti (Dr. Eugene Landy)

Pohlad give us two juxtaposing looks into Brian’s life. John Cusack portrays him as an adult and Paul Dano, as younger man. Brian is a profound artist and musical savant who has created some of the best hit music the world has known over the last half century. The Beach Boys’ canon has stood the test of time but many people don’t know or understand actually how Brian came up with the melodies, lyrics and new sounds so beloved the world over. Brian Wilson struggled with a severe mental illness which progressed with age. Wilson’s mental illness caused him to hear voices in his head. Music emanated from his soul. The only way he could move on with his life was to let it out. Even if it seemed easy, a part of him was lost after every song he wrote.

Pohlad lets the audience behind the curtain not only of Brian’s life but behind the creation of the Beach Boys’ music in studio. From the first notes on piano to the experimental play Brian pushes his orchestra to create bring to life the music he hears inside. As Brian’s disease develops, his habits become all the more unusual and the distractions in his mind become overwhelming. Sometimes it would take 3 hours for Brian to decide if a room’s vibrations are adequate for recording that day. This odd behaviour is both fun and heartbreaking to witness.

Elizabeth Banks is Melinda, a car salesman that Brian meets later in his life when he is heavily medicated and watched over by his therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatta). The two characters represent the opposing forces in Brian’s life and their onscreen chemistry is compelling. Melinda is a genuine soul who only wants the best for Brian. While Gene, who claims he is looking out for Wilson’s career is doing anything but. The film reveals a personal journey of a tortured soul.

Besides great performances, the sound design and mixing are a marvel to listen too. The interpretation of Brian’s inner thoughts and musical conjurings are what dreams and nightmares are made of. They start quiet and raise to a fever pitch, almost bursting the speakers of the cinema. It is evident Pohlad wants his audience to empathize with Wilson as much as possible. This is the most interesting artistic achievement in the film.

I’ll be honest, I had never really heard about Brian Wilson or his illness before, even though I am a big fan of the Beach Boys. The film was good, but the title cards in the end really help bring a final punch that leave a lasting impression, at least in my mind. “Love & Mercy” is definitely one to watch if you’re a music lover in general. Brian Wilson is a rare gem the world needs to appreciate and understand.

Pohlad’s resume also includes producing many award winning films: Brokeback Mountain (05), The Tree of Life (11), Food Inc. (08), Twelve Years a Slave (13), Old Explorers (90) Country: USA World Premiere River Road Entertainment

Chris Murphy

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