Love & Mercy

June 7, 2015 at 8:07 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

This biopic about Brian Wilson is less the story of the Beach Boys or even of his life, in particular, and more about his creative process. It is essentially the story of how (and why) Brian Wilson created. As such, it’s interesting stuff and, in fact, might be truly fascinating to someone who is a great lover of his work. I must admit, I know most of his popular songs by heart but very little about him and have not given his music much thought; it always seemed like the quintessential pop to me. So, from that perspective, this film was eye opening. It helped me to appreciate how revolutionary he was and how burdened he felt by his need to create. Told in two, interwoven parts, the story focuses mostly on his efforts as a young man in the 60s to push beyond the Beach Boys’ defined sound, while intersplicing scenes of him as an older man in the 80s, trying to find love. Wilson is played by Paul Dano (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “12 Years a Slave”) and John Cusack (“Being John Malkovich,” “High Fidelity”) respectively. Watching the two actors’ interpretations of the same character was one of the primary joys of the film. Both played him with an undercurrent of pensive wonder and sadness that helped to connect the two performances but Dano’s Wilson was much more expressive and hopeful, while Cusack played a man broken by life. The running theme through all scenes was the way Wilson was haunted by his need for his father’s approval and how that played out in dangerous ways; he remained dangerously obsequious to strong men throughout his life. For all this though, there was little else that engaged me. We learned almost nothing of the rest of his family and bandmates. In fact, all but two or three characters in his life remained largely unexamined. This left the final product feeling a little unfinished and unsatisfying. We were given fascinating glimpses into the man but not really a very full picture.

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