Everybody grew up on the Beach Boys music. There is not a person of any age in this country that doesn’t recognize several Beach Boys songs by just the first few notes. That being the case, it is important to understand that Love and Mercy is not about the Beach Boys. It is about Brian Wilson, the genius behind the group. If you’re looking for a film that celebrates the heyday of this phenomenal band by showing how they were formed and playing lots of their songs in an obvious and predictable musical biopic, this is not it.
This movie highlights two parts of Brian Wilson’s life; a period in the 60’s in which he is in the process of creating Pet Sounds, one of the greatest albums ever made. The other is in the 80’s when Brian was recovering from a long bout with depression and he is attempting to get his life back on track. The interesting thing about the film is that it is actually telling two different stories at the same time. The narratives run parallel to each other, switching back and forth from one to the other. It is not a situation in which the storylines are going to tie into each other or something like that. This is legitimately two totally different stories being told, similar to something like Pulp Fiction. This format is very original and it absolutely works. The stories are equally engrossing and it is a toss-up at any given time which one is the most interesting.
I cannot fully express in this review just how great the acting is in this film. Every single actor in the movie delivers a great performance. The unknowns are great. More famous stars like John Cusack and Paul Giamatti are great. The real story however, are the performances of Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks. They are never in the movie at the same time and each owns their portion of the film. Dano plays the young Brian Wilson. This is without a doubt the greatest performance of his career and my personal favorite of the year so far. It is a thrill to watch this terrific young actor portraying the genius Brian Wilson so masterfully. His performance is so real that it actually feels like a documentary. The in-studio scenes are so well filmed and expertly acted that it really feels like you are watching a genius at work. Banks, on the other hand, does her best work in the more subtle moments. Her facial expressions tell you all you need to know about the way she feels about Brian and what dire straits they are in. I am so happy to see these two long-underrated performers getting these kind of roles and delivering Oscar worthy performances.
If there is one thing that is on par with the acting here it is the screenplay written by Oren Moverman and Michael Lerner. This is a slow-paced, dialogue driven character story. The dialogue, which was absolutely crucial to the success of the film, is the best I have heard in a long time. The conversations between characters feel remarkably real. The exposition is delivered naturally and intelligently. This is the best screenplay of the year to this point and I don’t foresee a better one coming any time soon.
This is not your average biopic. It is a totally artistic film. It is slow with very little action and is not going to appeal to the casual moviegoer. Don’t let the fact that it is about a real person fool you. This is not Walk the Line. I love that movie too. They are both great, but completely different types of films.
This is, beyond any doubt at all, the best movie of the year so far. In fact, this may be the best movie I have ever seen in a theater, including The Dark Knight, Gravity, and Les Miserable. With the exception of Gone with the Wind, it is the best movie I have ever reviewed. In case you don’t get the point by now, Love and Mercy is a great, powerful, and moving film. It was a pleasure to watch. I will never hear the Beach Boys the same way again. The Movie Man gives it 5 out of 5 stars.
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