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Love & Mercy


Stars: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Jake Abel, Dee Wallace, Kenny Wormald, Joanna Going

Director: Bill Pohlad

This unconventional biopic of the much-troubled life of Brian Wilson, lead singer and driving force of The Beach Boys, is both a little too pretentious and a little too fragmented in its style, as it grasshoppers between the travails of the young Brian (Dano), just after the Boys' greatest successes, as he looks for a new sound, and the older, burnt-out Brian (Cusack) in his late forties, falling into the clutches of the Svengali-like Eugene Landy (Giamatti), who mistakenly diagnoses him with paranoid schizophrenia, and over-medicates him to the point of stupor.

Enter Melinda (Banks), a failed model who now sells cars. She and Brian become intimate and she fights, at first unsuccessfully, to disentangle him from Landy's web.

No disrespect to Cusack, who's perfectly OK, but you kinda wish that Dano, who's extraordinary (and looks like Wilson) had been permitted to do the whole thing, perhaps with help from, some CGI make-up.

Banks is a bit plastic as Melinda, but the lads' music, of which there isn't quite enough, hasn't dated and still sounds great. The film doesn't really answer the question as to whether Brian was/is a musical genius or just a talented oddball, but it would have needed a more penetrating script for that to happen.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by Fotokem.
120 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Jul 2015