5 hours ago
Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Film: 'Love and Mercy'
The first strand takes place in the mid-late 60s as the group reach the height of their popularity with their hit singles and the 'Pet Sounds' album, and involves power struggles and squabbles both within the group (essentially with the other four becoming increasingly disillusioned at Wilson B calling all the shots), as well as friction with Wilson's controlling father. For most of us around at the time we had no idea that this was happening behind the scenes as we'd bought into the image of a carefree, happy-go-lucky, closely-bonded group.
The other strand, about 20 years later, has the middle-aged Wilson trying to recover from over-indulgences on drugs, battling his mental dark forces with the 'help' of tyrannical and short-fused psychiatrist Dr Latty, while simultaneously meeting and getting to know a new lady friend, both he and her having experienced unsatisfactory marriages and affairs, their acquaintanceship having the intense disapproval of Wilson's mentor-doctor.
The earlier Wilson, already showing evidence of mental instability, is played by Paul Dano, quite spookily close in facial resemblance to the Brian Wilson we were familiar with at the time. The later figure is John Cusack, who looks very little like the same Wilson we see Dano playing in parallel. That needn't necessarily have been a problem, but I do think that it was Dano who gives the stronger performance. The two periods are frequently cross-cut with no warning. Even though the later life is more dramatic in terms of personal interaction, especially with the startlingly be-wigged Paul Giametti, who, playing Wilson's ever-hovering Dr Latty, has diagnosed him as 'paranoid schizophrenic' - and Elizabeth Banks as his new love interest. She is quite perfect in the part and very impressive indeed in conveying her conflicting emotions as she learns of Wilson's mental state and the doctor's harsh influence.
Director Bill Pohlad, whose first significant feature this appears to be in that role, does quite well with this disparate material, hanging it together quite effectively. He gives us no full-out renditions of Beach Boy songs, preferring to show us how a small handful of them germinated and grew into the productions we are all familiar with and which many of us have never ceased to love.
Btw: The rather unhelpful film title comes from the name of a track from B.Wilson's reconstruction of the group's widely admired and much-postponed 'Smile' album. We actually see the present-day Wilson singing the song over the film's closing credits.
All in all, a fairly worthy experience without quite hitting the heights for which this particular fan had hoped.....................6.5.