Love & Mercy

DRAMA; 2hr 1min

STARRING: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti

Life of Brian: Dano

Even for those clueless about the Beach Boys’ singer-composer Brian Wilson (Dano as a young man, Cusack in mid life), the opening scenes of director Bill Pohlad’s excellent insight into his turbulent history paint a revelatory picture. In the 1980s, on meeting Cadillac saleswoman Melinda (Banks), whom he would later marry, forty-plus Brian writes “Lonely, scared, frightened” on her business card. In the following scene, some 20 years earlier, younger Brian suffers a panic attack on a plane with his band brothers, after which he [“just wants] to be at home.”


Alternating between the two decades, the attuned screenplay pieces Brian together in vignettes. The incandescent musical evolution that leads him from the summery fun of “Surfin’ USA” and “I Get Around” to the richer, symphonic planes of the Pet Sounds album would splinter the band and fuel his instability. When he meets Melinda, Brian is under the Machiavellian care of psychiatrist Dr Eugene Landy (Giamatti), who has wrongly diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. Woven throughout as an illumination of Brian’s assured and painstaking creative process, the studio sessions are in-the-moment absorbing. Coupled with his psychological unravelling, they also do double duty as a blueprint of self-contradiction.