Love And Mercy (2014)

A review by Shlomoh Sherman
June 19, 2015

Love & Mercy (2014)
Plot: In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Director: Bill Pohlad
Writers: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner
Stars: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti
Plot Summary - Plot Synopsis
Plot Keywords: 1980s - 1960s - therapist - ampersand in title - three word title
Taglines: The Life, Love and Genius of Brian Wilson
Genres: Biography - Drama - Music
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug content and language
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: June $, 2015 (Israel)
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office
Opening Weekend: $2,122,177 (USA) (June 5, 2015)
Gross: $4,774,000 (USA) (June 12, 2015)
Company Credits:
Production Co: River Road Entertainment, Battle Mountain Films
Runtime: 121 min
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Color: Color - Black and White

I have never been a big fan of the Beach Boys. Their music was supposed to appeal to a younger era people during the 1960s when I was already in my mid-20s, and my tastes were more into popular ballads and bossa nova. I also have never been the surfer type but as young Brian Past exclaims, 'We're *not* surfers, we *never* have been, and *real* surfers don't dig our music anyway!'"

Of course I was aware of their songs since the 1960s was a decade during which I listened to music radio every day. So of course I was aware of KOKOMO, I GET AROUND, WOULDN'T IT BE NICE, BARBARA ANN [which gave rise to several political parodies], CALIFORNIA GIRLS [which I would sing to a Los Angeles old flame], SURFIN' USA, GOOD VIBRATIONS [used in the 2003 film, LOVE ACTUALLY], and GOD ONLY KNOWS [a hauntingly beautiful song used as the end title background song in the film, LOVE ACTUALLY]. And another thing - I am a big fan of Chicago. During the 70s, Chicago recorded a beautiful song entitled, WISHING YOU WERE HERE. What I didn't realize at the time is that they did the recording as a joint project with the Beach Boys. Knowing that may have added to my enjoyment of the song.

Music always brings joy to young people in the midst of romance, and especially during the long, light days of summer. But as Printcess64 says in his June 5, 2015 review, "It's hard to believe all that sunny happy music came from such a dark place." The dark place referred to is the descent of the group's leader, Brian Wilson, into the depths of a brooding insanity. Brian is a musical genius but his early life, as presented in LOVE AND MERCY, was a series of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, first by his father, and later by his doctor, Dr. Eugene Landy, who managed to legally take over his negative psychological treatment and assets, holding Brian in virtual house arrest, and being the ultimate arbiter of who could come into contact with Brian.

One day, while shopping for a Cadillac, Brian encountered Melinda Ledbetter, the car saleswoman who eventually became his girl-friend and, later on , his wife, overcoming the opposition and strong arm methods of Landy.

There are many reasons for me to recommend this movie, among them are:
1. The script and acting in LOVE AND MERCY are incredibly moving. Brian is portrayed as a young man by Paul Dano whom I remember from TAKING LIVES, LOOPER, and COWBOYS AND ALIENS. John Cusack, one of my favorites whose filmography is too extensive to mention here, plays the older Brian. Printcess64 says, "The performances of both Paul Dano and John Cusak are Oscar worthy.", and I surely agree. Elizabeth Banks plays Brian's fiancee, Melinda. We have seens her in THE HUNGER GAMES, PITCH PERFECT 2, THE NEXT THREE DAYS W. [as Laura Bush], ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, SPIDER-MAN 2 AND 3, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, SWEPT AWAY, and most recently and excellently in WALK OF SHAME. I always love to see Paul Giamatti in any movie, and in this one he plays the meany, Dr Landy, and he does the role venomlously. It brought to mind the first movie I saw him in as the baddie NBC enemy of Howard Stern in PRIVATE PARTS. The beautiful Dee Wallace is always a pleasure to my eyes. I have loved her since seeing her in ET: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL. The rest of the cast all give the excellent performances which make the film worth seeing.
2. I have said that I have never been a fan of the Beach Boys but hearing their songs as part of the movie sound track made me appreciate their music perhaps for the first time and really gave me insight into the music genius of Brian Wilson.

A final note: The eerie sound of GOOD VIBRATIONS is attributed to the inclusion of the Theramin, which Google describes as an electronic musical instrument in which the tone is generated by two high-frequency oscillators and the pitch controlled by the movement of the performer's hand toward and away from the circuit. Wikipedia reminds us that "The theremin was used in movie soundtracks such as Miklós Rózsa's SPELLBOUND and THE LOST WEEKEND and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, as well as other 1950s science fiction movies. The instrument was named after its Russian inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device as early as 1928 when he came to live in the United States. In 1938, Theremin left the United States. There is speculation that he was taken from his New York City apartment by KGB agents, taken back to the Soviet Union and made to work in a prison camp in Siberia. In his 2000 biography of the inventor, THEREMIN: ETHER MUSIC AND ESPIONAGE, Albert Glinsky suggested the Russian had fled the USSR to escape crushing personal debts, and was then caught up in Stalin's political purges. I have heard another theory, namely, that Stalin, in his paranoia, considered the technology with which Theramin used to create the instrument might have military uses which Theramin might hand over to the West. In any case, Theremin did not return to the United States until 1991.

Did You Know?

Paul Dano gained 35 pounds to play Brian Wilson, eating 4,500 calories a day. He claims to have torn a ligament in his knee playing basketball due to the extra weight.
The real Wilson reported having a mild dissociative experience while watching the film. He started to believe that Paul Giamatti was the actual Eugene Landy and felt "absolutely in fear" for several minutes.
During the Q&A at the film's premier at SXSW '15, Brian Wilson stated that his favorite scene in the movie was the intimate scene between Cusack and Banks, reflecting a happy moment between his real life wife and himself.
Some parts of Wilson's life were so outlandish that the filmmakers briefly considered falsifying events or downplaying character performances in order to make it all appear less clichéd and grandstanding. In the end, Pohlad says, "We tried to make it as genuine as we could and to be straightforward about it and not back away."
The film avoided taking creative liberties as much as possible.
The film's score, composed almost entirely from original Beach Boys multi-track recording stems, was inspired by the Beatles' experimental sound collage "Revolution 9".
Dano and Cusack did not interact with each other during filming. This was encouraged by Pohlad, who didn't want the actors to simply perform an impression of Wilson, but to create their own organic understanding of his character.
The real Brian Wilson had minimal creative input on the film. He believed that it was "very factual", but focused too much on the dark aspects of his life. Bill Pohlad later claimed that Wilson thought some characters' depictions were treated too fairly.
In the 1980s, Eugene Landy and his associates attempted to organize a biopic of Wilson's life entitled Love & Mercy with William Hurt as Wilson and Richard Dreyfuss as Landy.
A third era which focused on Brian Wilson's infamous bed period in the 1970s was considered, but ultimately discarded, leaving some of his most troubled years to the viewer's imagination.
Paul Dano and John Cusack were Pohlad's first choices to play Brian Wilson. Responding to criticism over Cusack's physical resemblance to Wilson, Pohlad said that Cusack looked like Wilson during a very particular era, specifically when Wilson appeared in the documentary Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times (1995).
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The script was a major overhaul of a rejected screenplay written by Michael Alen Lerner. In this version entitled 'Heroes and Villlains', the film would have focused largely on Wilson's life between 1982 and 1993 with intermittent flashbacks to the '60s, and ending with Wilson completing Smile in 2004.
Many scenes were shot at their original real life locations, including the Studio 3 room of United Western Recorders and the site of the Wilson family's childhood home in Hawthorne, California.
During the heavily symbolic pool scene, each Beach Boy is as close to the metaphorical "deep end" as they were in real life. Farthest away is Al Jardine, who was the "cleanest" band member. Closer is Mike Love (who partook in some vices), Carl Wilson (suffered from alcoholism), Dennis Wilson (alcohol and cocaine abuse), and Brian Wilson (addictions to alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and others).

When Melinda first meets Dr. Landy in his office, his watch reads 4:55 but his watch then reads 4:40 for the rest of the scene.
When Melinda and Eugene are talking outside about Brian, camera crew members are reflected on the side of Melinda's car.

Brian Past: [pounding on recording console] We're *not* surfers, we *never* have been, and *real* surfers don't dig our music anyway!
Dennis Wilson: [inhales cigarette] They don't.

Surfin' U.S.A. Written by Chuck Berry Performed by The Beach Boys Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
I Get Around Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love Performed by The Beach Boys Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Fun, Fun, Fun Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love Performed by The Beach Boys Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
God Only Knows Written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher Performed by Paul Dano
Wouldn't It Be Nice Written by Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Tony Asher Performed by the Love & Mercy Musicians
Love & Mercy Written by Brian Wilson Performed by Darian Sahanaja
Sloop John B Written by Brian Wilson Performed by The Beach Boys Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Good Vibrations Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love Performed by Paul Dano
Be My Baby (uncredited) Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector Performed by Paul Dano

For a full, comprehensive list of soundtraks, surf to

Awards: 1 win and 11 nominations
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2015 Nominated Best Film International Competition Bill Pohlad
Dallas International Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Award Narrative Feature Bill Pohlad
Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Award Bill Pohlad
Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Choice Award Best Feature Narrative Bill Pohlad
Nashville Film Festival 2015 Won Best of Festival Award Best Original Song Brian Wilson Nominated Best of Festival Award Narrative Feature Bill Pohlad
SXSW Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Award Narrative Feature Bill Pohlad Headliners Bill Pohlad
San Francisco International Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Award Best Narrative Feature Bill Pohlad
Sarasota Film Festival 2015 Nominated Audience Award Best Narrative Feature Bill Pohlad
Sydney Film Festival 2015 Nominated Sydney Film Prize Best Film Bill Pohlad
Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Nominated People's Choice Award Masters Bill Pohlad

Message Boards:
Recent Posts:
My biggest problem with the film. - timdgd
What document did Melinda find? - lorgurus
John Cusack looks NOTHING like Brian Wilson. - prolia705
If Dennis Wilson was Alive. - movienut710
WHERE IS IT SHOWING ? - httr-53772
SMiLE vs The SMiLE Sessions - JacobCrim88

Discuss Love & Mercy (2014) on the IMDb message boards

Credited cast:
Elizabeth Banks ... Melinda Ledbetter
John Cusack ... Brian Future
Paul Giamatti ... Dr. Eugene Landy
Paul Dano ... Brian Past
Dee Wallace ... Rosemary
Jake Abel ... Mike Love
Kenny Wormald ... Dennis Wilson
Joanna Going ... Audree Wilson
Nikki Wright ... Hippy / Doper
Brett Davern ... Carl Wilson
Max Schneider ... Van Dyke Parks
Graham Rogers ... Al Jardine
Tyson Ritter ... Hipster #1
Erin Darke ... Marilyn Wilson
Diana Maria Riva ... Gloria

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