Love & Mercy

It's hard to watch mental illness in action. This biographical film allows us to witness the process for former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, as he hits the heights on the pop music charts and then the depths of isolation and rejection as paranoia and schizophrenia overwhelm his life.

Director Bill Pohlad ("12 Years a Slave") gives us a 119-minute slow trajectory of failure, chaos, confusion and heartbreak as we see our hero brutalized first by his ambitious father and then by his dictatorial personal physician. We can see how everyone else, including his singing group, tries to be patient and understanding; they even wear red plastic fireman's hats in a recording session as he becomes more eccentric and demanding.

We see:
  • Paul Dano ("Prisoners") Young Brian Wilson already carries within himself the seeds of his own self-destruction. To me this looked like a form of Asperger's, particularly as we see the tableware at the dinner party become too loud for him to tolerate.
  • John Cusack ("Lee Daniels' The Butler") Mature Brian Wilson is a physical and mental wreck, unable to write music and utterly cowed by his bullying therapist.
  • Elizabeth Banks ("Hunger Games") Melinda Ledbetter is in car sales when our hero decides he wants a new Cadillac....and then a date. She is shocked by the behavior of Brian's therapist.
  • Paul Giamatti ("Saving Mr. Banks") Dr. Eugene Landy describes himself as Brian's "brother from a different mother." He has facilitated a healthy weight loss for Wilson and is determined to control every aspect of his life.
  • Diana Maria Riva ("The Bridge") Gloria is the observant long-time maid who has witnessed the entire spiral. She wants what's best for Brian and becomes his advocate, along with Melinda.
We enjoy snippets of I Get Around; Fun, Fun, Fun (Til My Daddy Took My T-Bird Away); Surfin' U.S.A.; and a few others, but we do NOT enjoy watching a talented but mercurial young musician sink into madness. Later we hear Good Vibrations and selections from Pet Sounds.

Please stay for the final credits because the "Rest of the Story" is extremely satisfying. This entry was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival from the United States.
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Here is a trailer:
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