Our reviewer on…Love and Mercy (2014)


Our reviewer in…Maysa Moncao has just seen the Beach Boys film Love and Mercy starring John Cusack. Her review is below.

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Love and Mercy. River Road/Battle Mountain. (12a)

Director: Bill Pohlad.


Cast & credits

Producer: Bill Pohlad, Claire Rudnick Polstein, John Wells.
Writer: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner.
Camera: Robert D. Yeoman.
Music: Atticus Ross.
Sets: Keith P. Cunningham.

John Cusack, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks.


In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.


Rock stars give genuinely good stories. You do not need to add more to a feature film.

If we take Brian Wilson’s life from the sunny days of the 60s as a Beach Boy to his gloomy days in the 80s as a disturbed mind, of course it could lead to an interesting movie. But Love & Mercy is not an obvious film. It is an emotional tale told by magnificent performers and a talented filmmaker.

Love & Mercy is not only for Beach Boys fans. (Are there many left?) It is for those who have lost faith in love. It is for sensible people. If your sensibility only peaks on a roller coaster, than it is not for you.

All four main actors are terrific. John Cusack comes out from hibernation (where has he been?!) and with lots of annoying almost pancake make-up, to take you by his hand on an atypical ride through a genious mind. He is simple, naive, easily manipulated, a child and a man simultaneously. Women will propose to him on twitter.

Paul Dano is the surprise of the cast, as the young Wilson. He will tell you how a strong, leader personality can lose its tracks by suffering rejection and paranoid thoughts.

Paul Giamatti is the antagonist doctor of the older Wilson. Unbalanced therapists are often powerful tyrants, until you face them consistently. Then we see their cowardice.

And that is what Elisabeth Banks (Melinda Ledbetter) does against Giamatti (Eugene Landi). She opens the door and faces the neurotic screaming doctor. OK if a stunning blonde is also clever and good-hearted. After all, she does not give up.

Should we stop here? Are you convinced you should watch this melodrama? Maybe not. So, let’s stop all this emotional chatting and talk about movie techniques.

The mind is a dark territory. We know very few things about it. The brain is the less known organ of our body, and capable of leading us to and suffering from incomprehensible behaviours and diseases. So how can a movie show what is on the mind of a disturbed rock star?

For God’s sake, we cannot, anymore, reveal it in dreams or flashbacks. But a wise director, and his cameraman and sound engineer, can show it with camera moves and clumsy sounds.

You’ll understand me when you see the scene where the young Wilson quarrels with his father. As soon as the dialogue is cut, the camera shows how big the room is where Wilson and his Father argue: isolated at the corners.

This resource is not new, of course. You will find it in The Conversation and in The Neighbouring Sounds You will follow me too when you watch the scene of the feast, in which the sounds of the cutlery grow to an unbearable level. And once again I repeat this is not new. You will find it in The Discreet Charm Of the Bourgeoisie and Delicatessen.

But, hey, ho! That is the charm of the 7th art! Find all the voices that compose the song-speech of one movie! Discover the influences, the homages, the new signified repetitions. Because if you are going to repeat, better bring to it a new meaning.

What is the new meaning in listening to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” over and over again, and watching a new music video with that same old sequence in the pool but with actors instead of singers? That is love and mercy, my darling. We have to try it again!

Maysa Moncao



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