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Love & Mercy 

Wednesday, Jun 3 2015
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In Love & Mercy, a bedridden Brian Wilson — the musician, not the athlete — struggles mightily with almost becoming the star child from 2001. Bill Pohlad's biopic culminates in a surreally exalting montage of Wilson at different ages (divvied up between Paul Dano and John Cusack), stuck in bed and seeming both fragile and transcendently out of this world. Well, yes: One thing most of us know about Wilson — here, it's the first personal thing his future girlfriend asks about during their meet-cute — is that he did spend a lot of time tucked in, on account of psychological problems combined with ambition to be more than just a Beach Boy. As for the girl, a Cadillac saleswoman in the form of Elizabeth Banks, she's the sweetest tortured-genius-tolerator-and-eventual-rescuer that any sensitive songsmith lad could ever hope for, especially when he's also got Paul Giamatti as a controlling monster of a therapist. Can't really complain about the casting: Dano's wounded-bird innocence works well in this mythology, as does the affable Cusackitude, even if sharing the role underscores each actor's way of seeming mostly like himself. Written by Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner, Pohlad's film doesn't quite revolutionize the art of movie biography, but it works as a digest of pop songcraft and period costumes, and a groovy heartwarmer besides.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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