On Friday night, my roomie Christopher Kain and I went to see Love & Mercy: The Love, Life & Genius of Brian Wilson.
I have to admit I was unsure how well this would work as the legendary genius behind The Beach Boys was played by two actors, Paul Dano and John Cusack. Now Dano looks so much like Wilson it is frightening. I was more concerned about Cusack’s portrayal, but as the older Wilson he his Wilson’s facial mannerisms down pat. Cusack’s performance was understated yet very powerful.
Given the chaotic nature of Wilson’s life it does make sense for two actors to have played him. Bill Pohlad, who is better known as a producer of films such as 12 Years a Slave, directed this film. Like Brian Wilson’s character, Pohlad’s direction was chaotic but not contrived.
Paul Giamatti personified evil in his portrayal of Dr. Eugene Landy, the psychiatrist whose “care” Wilson was under for years. Landy, however, basically used Wilson as a cash cow while misdiagnosing the nature of Wilson’s illness. Salvation would come in the form of Melinda Ledbetter who Wilson would later marry. Ledbetter was played by Elizabeth Banks. Now if I was held against my will by Paul Giamatti wearing a really bad toupee and Elizabeth Banks came to my rescue, I know where I’d want to go.
Love & Mercy presents a Brian Wilson overwhelmed by a series of male figures who showed him very little in the way of love and mercy or appreciation of his musical genius – Dr. Landy, his father and former business manager Murray Wilson as well as his fellow Beach Boy, the inaptly named Mike Love. I have no doubt the temperamental Love disputes his portrayal. But at the very minimum, Love isn’t the musical visionary Wilson is. The fact that Love couldn’t hear the brilliance of Pet Sounds demonstrates his inability to see the tree for the forest.
Here is an interesting aside. Both Paul Giamatti and Bill Pohlad’s father both had baseball connections. A. Bartlett Giamatti was MLB Commissioner in 1989 before his untimely death while Carl Pohlad owned the Minnesota Twins for 25 years.
In any case, I strongly recommend Love & Mercy. It is worthy of Academy Award consideration, but I don’t know if Academy voters will still remember this film by the end of the year.
Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link: https://thespectator.com/world.