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Friday, August 12, 2016

LOVE & MERCY (2015)

This unusual, and unusually effective, bifurcated bio-pic about Beach Boys’ creative head Brian Wilson, double casts the role with Paul Dano as the brilliant young musician falling into mental instability, and John Cusack taking over in middle-aged psychosis. Bill Pohlad, in a beautifully detailed return to directing (only his second pic after 25 years producing), keeps up tension by shifting between the two time periods, letting narrative gaps fall where they may, but comes up against a dramatic roadblock in the more conventional aspects of Wilson’s partial recovery. (Shhh . . . SPOILER ALERT . . . He’s saved by the love of a good woman.) There’s only so much Elizabeth Banks can do with this clichĂ© other than pop her eyes at the outlandish behavior by Paul Giamatti’s hipster/control-freak psychologist (and his outlandish hair piece) as she waits for her opportunity. But the film is saved by returns to earlier days. Dano’s scenes with his awful dad are standouts, though a psychotic episode involving cascading noises at the dining table exploding in Wilson’s brain misses the element of fun percussive ‘natural’ music going on. Something Wilson should react to playfully, not with a panic attack, a mirror of his far-out ideas on musical sounds for one of his over-produced albums. (Oh, Phil Spector, you have much to answer for.) And how nice, in the later sections, to see John Cusack calling up old acting instincts he hasn’t had an opportunity to display recently.

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