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PAUL DANO & JOHN CUSACK AS BRIAN WILSON IN LOVE & MERCY

2015 rating: **1/2
Brian Wilson played an immense part in making The Beach Boys timeless and legendary. Their catchy Southern California pop defined the early 60’s before psychedelia took over the entire counter culture, and the best scenes in LOVE & MERCY provide a glimpse into Wilson working with studio musicians to create the few important tracks that bridged the Boys from (in symbolic terms) HAPPY DAYS to PURPLE HAZE.

Paul Dano does a good job as the young Brian, guiding us through the process of creating a new sound, butting heads with fellow bandmate and stubbornly nostalgic Mike Love, not making him look too good in the process while shedding a worse light on Wilson's bullying father, who eventually sold the Song Rights for pennies…

Brian Wilson's Sgt Peppers
Which doesn’t fully explain why Brian, played by John Cusack as the older, not so mentally stable icon… was still a millionaire. Thus the chief villain exists in the "present time" 1980's as Paul Giamatti takes on Wilson’s manipulative, controlling Dr. Landy with the kind of spiteful venom usually given to a Bond villain – and it’s not the medicated rock god on a short leash his paranoid sites are locked on…

Thus the LOVE in LOVE & MERCY is entirely channeled onto classy car saleswoman Monica played by Elizabeth Banks. Her sporadic scenes with Cusack’s vulnerable man-child provides more of a flashback vibe to the 1960’s than vice versa, often making their budding relationship an intrusion rather than a focal point. Meanwhile, we don’t get enough of either time period to put the film into a genuine Rock Biopic category or that of a Disease of the Week/Middle-Aged Romance, which this seems like a watered-down... yet still breezily entertaining... Lifetime Channel version of.
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