God Only Knows

On June 3, 2015 by Lori Z

This is a post by JBFC Marketing Intern Stacy Zakalik

LoveMercyLove & Mercy, the Beach Boys biopic, directed by Bill Pohlad, opens at the Burns on June 5. About The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, it looks at him from two different decades in two parallel storylines.

The first, the younger Wilson’s story, takes place in the late 1960’s. Wilson begs the rest of the band to let him stay home for the Japanese tour, and uses that time to write the masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Played beautifully by Paul Dano, he gets all the younger Wilson’s tics and idiosyncrasies just right. It is Dano’s own performance, not an outright imitation of Wilson, though Dano does look remarkably like the young Wilson with his floppy hair and Hawaiian shirts.

The second storyline, taking place in the 1980’s, focuses on the middle-aged Wilson. Played by John Cusack with quiet reserve, it shows a man broken down by his abusers and manipulators. Wilson meets his soon-to-be second wife, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) at a Cadillac dealership. Ledbetter grows increasingly horrified when she learns about his therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, played with relish by Paul Giamatti, who has almost complete control over Wilson’s life.

The film skirts between these two times in Wilson’s life. The heady vibrant spectacle of Wilson’s creation of Pet Sounds and the more somber display of the older Wilson. It is beautiful to watch the album coming together, songs that millions have known and loved. When “God Only Knows” (called the most beautiful song in the world by Paul McCartney) comes together, it is truly something to behold. Dano is a joy to watch, rallying together the Wrecking Crew, musicians that will help him make the album, and piecing together the songs one by one. John Cusack, though, may have the more difficult of the two roles. His Wilson is a little farther away, depressed, and harder to grasp than Dano’s Wilson. Still, he infuses this Wilson with life and his story with Ledbetter, who fights to get him out of Landy’s custody, is truly inspiring.

Fans of Wilson and the Beach Boys will be glad to see how much effort and devotion have been put into the film. No stone is left unturned. The in-fights within the band, who are unsure of Wilson’s ideas, are accurately depicted. Wilson’s abusive father is given screen time, in an especially poignant scene when he insults Wilson’s songwriting talent. And, of course, Wilson’s manic creativity is shown, as he descends into depression and other mental issues, which the film does not skirt around.

I would recommend this film to any Beach Boys fan, or anybody who wants to get to know them, their music, and the genius of Brian Wilson.

Tickets for Love & Mercy are on sale now! Check out an interview with the director and cast below!

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