ERIN GANNON ’19
They say there are two sides to every story. Bill Pohlad’s latest music-driven biopic about The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, “Love & Mercy”, demonstrates just that—two sides to the man behind the group’s ubiquitous success in the 1960s. Paul Dano and John Cusack co-star respectively as those two sides: a younger and older version of Wilson, which are two extremely distinct roles. A juxtaposition of two critical eras in Wilson’s life, “Love & Mercy” braids together Wilson’s waning success in the 1960s following a panic attack (Dano), and the psychological downward spiral that followed in the 1980s (Cusack).
Young Brian Wilson struggles to piece together sounds that entertain both himself and his abusive father—a daunting and unachievable compromise that drives him to a traumatizing panic attack which temporarily ends his time on the road with the band. Despite a new devotion to creating the “greatest album ever,” Brian’s psychological state only deteriorates further as emerging symptoms of psychosis begin settling in to his brain. As the voices in his head become increasingly loud, the creative soul behind The Beach Boys is driven closer and closer to a complete mental breakdown.
Fast forward twenty years, and the story picks up at a Cadillac dealership, where a clearly mentally unstable Brian meets saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). The two inspect a car together, and after sharing a few awkwardly intense moments in the front seats, Brian decides he wants to purchase that very car. Melinda is won over by Brian’s sensitive nature, and not long after, the two fall in love.
As Brian and Melinda’s relationship builds, Brian’s relationship with his domineering therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) becomes strained. Since Landy had supposedly “rescued” Brian after his psychological episode, Brian fails to recognize that his doctor has assumed the abusive role that Brian’s father once played. As a third party outwardly viewing this unhealthy dynamic, Melinda becomes determined to rescue Brian from the man who is supposed to be rescuing him.
“Love & Mercy”, with its title derived from the opening track of Brian Wilson’s debut solo album Brian Wilson, explores the true story behind The Beach Boys’ ringleader and the angels and demons driving his brilliant mind. Wilson’s story speaks to audiences beyond the breadth of those found at a Beach Boys concert in the 60s and depicts two sides to the common story of successes and failures—one of love and one of mercy.
“Love & Mercy” is playing at Cinestudio September 30th through October 3rd.
ERIN GANNON ’19