Director: Bill Pohlad
I generally try to find a lesser known or kinda forgotten movie to recommend, but I’ll bend a bit for this one. “Love and Mercy”(2014) is the story of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. To be specific, it’s two stories about Brian Wilson. I really don’t care about the early days of the Beach Boys, it’s been told poorly a million times. I also don’t give a shit about Brian Wilson in bed. Luckily, this movie tells two stories inter-spliced with each other. One involves the lead up to, and making of “Pet Sounds” (1966) staring the young Brian (Paul Dano). The second involves how Brian (John Cusack) got out of bed with the help of his personal psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) only to find himself, essentially the prisoner of the same man.
The tasty, nougat center here is the look into how “Pet Sounds”(1966) comes about. Paul Dano is pretty goddamn great as the young Brian Wilson who is slowly starting to go a little fucking nutty. He manages to get off the road and let his cousin Mike Love turn their live shows/tours into a money-making machine that benefited everyone, while he was free to get into the studio with The Wrecking Crew (the famed group of Los Angeles based studio musicians who are the subject of the fantastic new documentary “The Wrecking Crew”(2015). The result would be a pop masterpiece and the only Beach Boys records worth a owning. Dano clearly plays the piano parts himself, sings and convincingly leads the studio musicians. As something approximating a musician, watching the songs come together in studio (and played live) in a truly organic looking way is a real treat. Dano kills it in this role.
GOLD ONLY KNOWS by THE BEACH BOYS
The second, intertwined narrative actually tells the story of the older, fragile Brian Wilson (John Cusak). It’s told from the perspective of a younger, beautiful, cars saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who begins dating Brian. It’s through her eyes that we can see just how fucked up and sick the relationship between Brian and Landy has become. Banks really steals the show here. She’s great (I think she’s almost always great and is going to blow people away at some point when she gets the right material). Giamatti, as usual, kills it as the fun to watch doctor who will do just about anything to keep Brian dependent on him. There is some well-disguised and straight up scary stuff going on with Dr. Landy here. The tough one to figure out is Cusack as older Brian. I wasn’t exactly impressed with his performance the first time through. He just barely seems to be there. The second time through it’s easy to see that maybe he’s doing a pretty good job, because that may simply be how Brian Wilson presents himself today . After a successful run as a producer (“Into the Wild (2007), “12 Years a Slave” (2013), Wild (2014) along with a few other good ones) , this is Bill Pohlad’s directorial debut. Great stuff. Love it. – LEE
LOVE AND MERCY (2014) TRAILER
Paul Dano: As Alex Jones in the devastatingly great “Prisoner”(2009). As Calvin Weir-Fields in the fun and original, “Ruby Sparks”(2012) and as Paul Sunday / Eli Sunday, the preacher you just want beat into a bloody puddle in“There Will Be Blood”(2007).
John Cusack: We all know his charming-and-cool-as-a-motherfucker roles. Cusack being Cusack at his best is the shit. Check him out as Roy Dillon in one of the true masterpieces, “The Grifters”(1991). As Nixon in “The Butler”(2012)or as Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun in “City Hall”(1996).
Elizabeth Banks: As Miranda in the very funny “Our Idiot Brother”(2011). As Lara Brennan in the smart, whodunit thriller “The Next Three Days”(2010) and Janet Cantrell in the paint-by-numbers, yet entertaining sports flick“Invincible”(2006).
Paul Giamatti: He’s just so good in everything so go back and check him out as Pig Vomit in “Private Parts”(1997) and more recently, as Jerry Heller in “Straight Outta Compton”(2015).
(Lee Ostler is a musician, avid fight fan, man-of-many-words, and huge fan of fine cinema. Each Thursday, he will start our minds rolling for the weekend with another gem of a film we can hunt down. Some will be easier to find than others, but that’s part of the game. Get the home theatre ready, pop the corn, and prepare to see some friggin’ awesome films)