“Love & Mercy”

“Love & Mercy” tells the story of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.

In 1961, just as a British band set out from Liverpool to begin their “Beatlemania” ascent into international stardom, across the Atlantic Ocean an American version, albeit from California, was formed. “Love & Mercy” is the gripping and powerful biopic story of Brian Wilson, the singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. With sensational dual performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack as the younger and older life versions of Wilson, both provide a chilling and fascinating peek into one of music’s most influential creative forces of all time.

The duo of Cusack and Dano give viewers the most riveting, chart-topping performances on film since Eddie Redmayne’s Academy Award-winning achievement as Stephen Hawking in last year’s “The Theory of Everything.” Together they take us back to the 1960s and ’80s, educating audiences on the real life mental and physical struggles of abuse, drug addiction and mental illness. Love & Mercy demonstrates how one young man, with a talent only found in music albums once or twice per generation, transformed dance songs into lyrics and harmony for listening.

Dano superbly transforms into the multi-tasking, visionary artist.  He patiently, but steadfastly, believes in himself and his music craft when no one else did. Dano’s Wilson created complex harmonies using unheard of noises on the soundtracks — from barking dogs, bicycle horns and Coca-Cola cans. Love & Mercy sets the stage for the real Brian Wilson to make his encore at the film’s end. A fitting tribute to a man so ahead of his time and audience with leading edge sounds.  

The Beach Boys’ 1966 album “Pet Sounds” altered the direction of the music industry to such a degree it was named by a trio of leading music publications as “the greatest album of all time” in 1993. Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Pet Sounds” #2 on their Greatest Albums of All Time list (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from the Beatles earned the top spot).  The Beatles singer Paul McCartney has called “Pet Sounds” his favorite album and its “God Only Knows” single “one of the most beautiful songs ever written.” Overall, The Beach Boys’ sold over $100 million in record sales worldwide, ranked by Rolling Stone at #12 of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time (2004). Love & Mercy meticulously takes viewers inside the mind of that success and its stunning impact on today’s music.

This film will shake viewers to their core; a shocking look behind the stage at an American legend with a brilliant mind and ear for music. Likewise, Pitch Perfect 2 director Elizabeth Banks shines brighter and stronger than ever before on camera — beautifully and eloquently offering a calm, steady and understanding support role to Wilson in his darkest moments. This movie will leave you hearing The Beach Boys’ psychedelic rock in your head and plenty of compassion and sympathy for Wilson in your heart.

Grade: A

(Editor’s Note: Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com)

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