It’s
been a slow start for movies in 2016, so I decided to revisit some
stuff I missed last year. Love and Mercy is a sort-of biopic of Beach
Boys songwriting genius Brian Wilson. Where it diverts from the norm is
in its narrative structure, choosing instead to follow Wilson at two
very different points in his life: mid 20’s during the recording of the
now classic ‘Pet Sounds’ and later years during his time under the over-medicating and manipulative ‘care’
of Dr. Eugene Landy. It’s a unique way to tell a story for a biopic but
it keeps it refreshing and interesting, mostly avoiding all the tropes
you’ve come to expect from movies like these. Love and Mercy is an
inspiring and heartbreaking look into the life of a music icon, and how
some of the most genius works of art wouldn’t exist without a life
filled with pain.

There’s
so much to love about this movie, especially as a musician. I have
always respected Brian Wilson and the songs he wrote for/with The Beach
Boys, but Love and Mercy delves into his process, and the creative
process in general, more than I’ve ever seen portrayed on film. All the
scenes at the studio during the Pet Sounds sessions are magical (due in
large part to Paul Dano killing it). Brian Wilson was the rare breed of
artist/musician that simply heard the music in his head, and brought it
to life; much to the chagrin of some of those around him. While the
other Beach Boys expected Pet Sounds to be another fun, breezy Beach
Boys album, Wilson (who stayed home from tour to write it) had much
bigger plans for it. To this day, the unconventional recording
techniques, odd instruments used throughout, and vocal layering Wilson
put into Pet Sounds paved the way for the psychedelic sound of the 60’s
and 70’s.

I
mentioned Paul Dano earlier, and he is astonishing in Love and Mercy.
Able to jump between being a fun-loving 20-something, a tortured artist,
and a victim of crippling anxiety, often within minutes of each other,
this may be his best role yet. John Cusack plays the older Brian Wilson,
and while there are shades of Cusack’s usual schtick visible, he really
nails the paranoia and pain that Wilson went through in his later
years. It was weird jumping back and forth between them the first few
times, but you get used to it. I do have to say though, that young
Brian’s (Dano’s) scenes stand out as the best, simply due to the
electric recording sessions and looming mental disorder slowly coming to
the surface. However by the end, the two Wilson’s almost meet in the
middle and transition into one another, so it all makes sense to the
story director Bill Pohlad is telling. I really don’t know if this movie
would click with people who don’t either love music and/or The Beach
Boys, but I’m glad I saw it. Brian Wilson is one of the most important
and crucial songwriters in history, and they do his story justice here.

That’s
gonna wrap up this entry, I hope you check the movie out if you’re
intrigued, or at least jam some Beach Boys the next chance you get. I’m
going to keep these a bit shorter than the usual lengths going forward
because I’m lazy and I MAKE THE RULES ‘ROUND HERE. I plan on seeing
Hail, Caesar and Deadpool sometime very soon, and might write about
those here too, so check back. Thanks for reading!

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