Love and Mercy

In the new movie called LOVE AND MERCY…two different actors play singer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys at two different times in his life. Instead of being a conventional biopic that tells Brian Wilson’s life story, LOVE AND MERCY cuts back and forth between the 1960’s when he was creating lots of music but having a nervous breakdown and the 1980’s when he met the woman who helped pull him out of a deep depression. It’s a really creative way of showing the joy of creation, the torment of mental breakdown, and the healing power of love and mercy.

Paul Dano plays Brian in the 1960’s when he was tapping into his musical creativity even as he was losing his sanity. And John Cusack is Brian in the 1980’s when he is under the constant supervision of psychotherapist Eugene Landy played by Paul Giamatti. Elizabeth Banks is Melinda, the car saleswoman who is amazed that a superstar is in her showroom.

Dr. Landy: You know who this is? Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Melinda: You didn’t mention that.

Brian: Well, that stuff doesn’t matter; that’s ego stuff, you know?

The young Brian creates the Beach Boy music with its distinctive harmonizing. And by the time he’s making PET SOUNDS, he’s using all kinds of sounds. He even uses dogs barking in the music.

When older Brian takes Melina out on a date, they are constantly watched by one of Landy’s employees.

Employee: Brian, time for your pills; come on.

Dr. Landy (to Melinda): If Brian calls you and asks you out for a date, that’s fantastic. But I need you to call me directly, immediately.

Melinda is shocked and confused and angry when she realizes that Brian is virtually a prisoner.

Brian: He’s my legal guardian; he’s protecting me.

Melinda: No, he’s over medicating you….You need to get back to your life.

Brian: I hear voices. But I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to scare you away.

Melinda: It’s OK; I’m here.

How this all plays out makes for a fascinating but unsettling movie experience, featuring some of the best acting I’ve seen so far this year.

Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.