Love and Mercy Review

Love_&_Mercy_w300SCORE: 7.8 (VERY GOOD)

RATED: PG-13 (thematic elements, drug content and language)



Love and Mercy (directed by Bill Pohlad) is the mostly interesting biopic about the mental and musical experiences of Brian Wilson, singer and songwriter for the Beach Boys. The film has two stories, one in the 60s about Brian wanting to write something different which leads to the making of Pet Sounds. The parts in the 1960s are the film’s best moments, they’re entertaining, beautifully shot, and have something which most music films get wrong, correct recording studio setups. These scenes also have Brian go through changes in his mental condition. In the other storyline, which takes place in the 1990s Brian falls in love with Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), who is his current wife, but Brian is different, his mental health has changed significantly due to an incorrect prescription for his mental illness. Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) always follows Brian, he completely controls Brian to the point where Brian is afraid of Dr. Landy. Landy’s interest in Brian is also entirely financial, he only sees Brian as a way to make more money. Brian and Melinda’s love story is challenged by both Brian’s illness and by Dr. Landy. The 1990s storyline wasn’t half as interesting as the 1960s storyline, it lacked the music and the beautiful camera shots that made the 1960s portions so great. Due to the 1990s portion not being very entertaining, the film has some serious pacing issues, the audience would be excited and loving the music scenes, but when the film suddenly switches to the 90s, the magic is gone. While parts of the 1990s material is fine, especially towards the end of the story, none of it deserves to be in the same movie as the 1960s scenes. Since the film has two storylines taking place 30 years apart, two different actors play Brian Wilson, in the 1960s there’s Paul Dano and in the 90s there’s John Cusack. Paul Dano gives an Oscar-worthy performance, he convinces the audience that he IS Brian Wilson. His facial expressions show the audience when his mood changes, his line delivery is brilliantly timed, and in one specific scene at a dinner party, his performance is chilling. John Cusack’s performance is fine, but his performance doesn’t compare to Dano’s. Cusack, however, is playing a different Brian Wilson, a broken Brian Wilson. In the beginning, Cusack’s performance feels wrong, but it grows on the viewer. Cusack is fine, but not Oscar-worthy like Dano. Overall, Love and Mercy is an interesting, if not poorly paced, biopic about Brian Wilson, it’s a must for fans and just music enthusiasts in general.


  • Dano’s Performance
  • Beautifully shot
  • Music career is interesting
  • View inside of Wilson’s head


  • Poorly paced
  • 1990s story doesn’t compare to the 1960s
  • Elizabeth Banks is a strange choice
  • The beautiful camerawork is missing the 1990s scenes

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