Sublime performances inform “Love and Mercy”; a fascinating and personal biopic of an iconic American Rock and Roll Band, “The Beach Boys”: brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson plus cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine: California boys who changed the world’s musical landscape; no longer needing a partner to dance, you could solo, feel the “vibrations” and fly.
The creative mastermind of the group was/is Brian; his gift was keenly pulsating, perpetually breathing in his wondrous mind; hearing iconic rhythms, losing all track of time, never tiring until the sound was actualized by his dedicated musicians; Paul Dano’s powerful, profound performance, stunningly portrays a young, highly sensitive talent, shadowed by the treatment of his abusive, despicable father/manager; a portrait of a doomed psyche, isolated; destructive “voices” eventually cauterizing, dominating, eclipsing his creativity.
John Cusack, is brilliant as the diminished, over-medicated, emotionally imprisoned, older Brian; the greatness of his depiction lies in his sad, subtle, fragile portrayal of a man, a shell of his former self, struggling to be whole; a performance achingly, heart-breaking to behold.
Paul Giamatti, Dr. Eugene Landy, grasps the Rasputin evilness of a man who for over ten years smothered, held prisoner Brian’s physical, psychological well-being; Giamatti’s characterization genuinely elicits unabashed hatred from the viewer.
Elizabeth Banks, is Melinda Ledbetter, a catalyst, who selflessly struggles to understand the fortress Dr. Landy has constructed and forced Brian to barely survive in; Banks imbues the role with touching naivety, unmitigated strength and beauty.
“Love and Mercy” is wretchedly dark; needing more of “The Beach Boys” buoyant lyrics. But director Bill Pohlad successfully brings to light the plight of a man, whose smothered genius, rises from a hellish hiatus, and sensationally regains its past glow and glory.