The latest film by the accomplished producer Bill Pohlad (Into The Wild, Brokeback Mountain) is certainly more than just a great biopic about the life of Brian Wilson, the leader and founding member of The Beach Boys, and his struggle with mental illness in two stages of his life. It is also a noble attempt at creating a psychological drama similar to Alfred’s Hitchcock’s Spellbound.
In Love & Mercy, rather than witnessing a musician’s rise to stardom and his eventual decline, we are faced with the neurotic ups and downs of a damaged soul. On one side of Brian’s life we find Paul Giamatti, who plays the infamous Dr. Eugene Landy with his rather controversial method of psychotherapy, and on the other side we have Melinda, the second wife and saviour of Brian, played excellently by Elizabeth Banks. Paul Dano, playing the young Brian during the 60s is as captivating as always, and John Cusack as the older Brian is even more so. In Love & Mercy, Cusack turns the years back to the 80s and reminds us of the iconic scene from Say Anything (Cameron Crowe) when he held that jukebox over his head.
It is interesting to mention that in both Amy (the recent biopic about Amy Winehouse) and Love & Mercy, two films dealing with musicians, the father figures are portrayed both as protectors and as controlling influences on their children’s lives. In the end, it must be said that Love & Mercy is certainly one of the best biopics of the last few years.