Ocular Merry

Love & Mercy (2015) 
A Review By Ben Hunter
4 Out Of 5 Stars


I absolutely LOVED the look of the film!  But that doesn’t make up for what I feel is a not so wise of a casting decision to reveal the order of information.  


“If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good what living do me?
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you 
God only knows what I’d be without you …”

The Beach Boys are back!  Ready to instill the wonder of their artful expressions on a new generation, and further more to come!  Producer Bill Pohlad (Into the Wild, 12 Years A Slave, The Runaways, Wild) steps into the director’s seat to harmonize with the necessary including some of The Beach Boys themselves to recreate the beautiful harmonies of the story of the group in Love & Mercy.  The film is a biography of the group’s lead singer Brian Wilson and we follow his experiences as he displayed and lived his art of music which is his life and how that tied into the Brian Wilson we all know and love from his group of brothers.  

The visuals … the visuals, the visuals, the visuals … the ocular merry … THE LOOK OF THIS FILM … WOW!!  I was so impressed with the CLASSIC 60’s vintage look!  The cinematography appeared as if it was straight out of 1963 and I felt as if I were living within this era of time, America’s teenage rebellion years.  Paul Dano (The Girl Next Door, There Will Be Blood, Ruby Sparks, 12 Years A Slave) as young Brian Wilson had me inside the car willingly awaiting the next stop on the journey this story was driving us towards.  Though I must say, as a huge fan of The Beach Boys, it was slightly ambitious of a manner to make Dano (Dan-Yo) become Wilson in my mind.  Though this was only when he would sing, or pretend.  I guess this was just inevitable as I grew up on these guys.  But on the playing out of the scenes with other characters in pure emotion, and extremely accurate 60’s garments, I was hooked!  I’m more convinced to go 60’s for Halloween one of these years now.

Paul Dano as young Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys in Love & Mercy.  
This became my problem with the film.  I loved witnessing Dano so much that when the editing would jump to the future to display older Brian Wilson as John Cusak, I just wanted to go back to Dano.  It was nice to see where he ended up and how his relationships were panning out.  Such as with his Psychologist Eugene (Paul Giamatti) or his girlfriend Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), seeing them interact as intricate and necessary pieces of the puzzle was interesting.  But this was my problem with Julie & Julia (2010), I didn’t need to see Meryl Streep’s narrative as Amy Adams’ was strong enough to support the story.  Thus making the film feel incomplete as if a much bigger puzzle piece was needed to fill the void.  By the end credits of a biopic when the filmmaker shows pictures of clips of the actual events and people that have been displayed for the past 2 hours, I want to feel the connection completed with this cherry on top.  When Love & Mercy had their turn at the end (when the title of the film is "supposed" to kick in and really sweeten the cherry), I went back to revisit why I didn’t feel the sweetness of such cherry and concluded that aging Paul Dano and the like, and simply using the editing to reveal the order of information in whatever way is best would’ve helped to suffice.  When I would see John Cusak, as good of a job as he, his doctor and girlfriend performed, I just wanted to go back to the 60’s to see Paul Dano and how he reacted with his brothers.  My attention kept wondering back there in hopes that we would soon return.  Brian’s interactions with his brothers, singing songs that I know and love and how they came about, THAT was what caught my attention the most!  

I wanted to see more of the interactions with Brian and his family, in particular his cousin Mike Love.  Which is another shameful point I have to admit.  I grew up loving Mike thanks highly in part to TV’s “Home Improvement” and even bigger to “Full House”.  Love & Mercy made Mike to be the odd man out who contradicted “poor Brian the artist who just wants to make good music, shame on you Mike” and then just left it as such.  Mike Love is not a bad guy.  This is why I had problems with recent Oscar film Selma.  It presented some JUICY information that one typically wouldn’t know about in a huge figure in American history and then left it to hang in the gallows while it went to go talk about what the film is really about.  Pick one story and don’t have your B story steal the shine of your main one.  Visuals and “cool film tricks” like editing concepts, or costumes, and props can only do so much. 

Nonetheless, I got in my car afterwards listened to my Beach Boys music on repeat, vintage music for a vintage film.  If the music is new, in my humble opinion, it needs to feel like it’s apart of the world created however many years ago the film’s story takes place (another problem with Selma and pretty much everything I find wrong about Baz Luhrmann).  It was nice to see what was going on in the world as some of my favorite songs were birthing into existence!  Exploring the details of such always fascinates me, and this was no different!

I was definitely, positively, fascinated!  

Love & Mercy 
Biography/Drama, 121 Minutes, PG-13
Based on the Original Screenplay “Heroes & Villains” by: Michael Alan Lerner
Screenplay by: Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman
Directed by: Bill Pohlad
Cast: John Cusak, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, & Paul Giamatti

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