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Love and Mercy

Directed by Bill Pohlad. US. 2015. PG-13. 121 minutes. Roadside Attractions. Digital.
Sun., July 19, 2015 thru Thu., July 30, 2015
Sunday
July 19, 2015
7:00 pm
Monday
July 20, 2015
6:30 pm
Wednesday
July 22, 2015
2:00 pm
Wednesday
July 22, 2015
4:30 pm
Wednesday
July 22, 2015
7:30 pm
Thursday
July 23, 2015
7:30 pm
Tuesday
July 21, 2015
7:30 pm
Friday
July 24, 2015
7:30 pm
Saturday
July 25, 2015
4:30 pm
Saturday
July 25, 2015
7:00 pm
Saturday
July 25, 2015
9:30 pm
Sunday
July 26, 2015
4:30 pm
Sunday
July 26, 2015
7:00 pm
Monday
July 27, 2015
6:30 pm
Tuesday
July 28, 2015
7:30 pm
Wednesday
July 29, 2015
2:00 pm
Wednesday
July 29, 2015
4:30 pm
Wednesday
July 29, 2015
7:30 pm
Thursday
July 30, 2015
7:30 pm

Join us at 6:30PM on Fri, Jul 17 when the amazing Thrifty Discount DJs spin Brian Wilson, Beach Boys, and related tunes before our first screening of Love and Mercy!

“The Beach Boys music has its roots in the weaving together of multiple voices, so it makes sense for a biopic of Brian Wilson, the groups brilliant songwriter-singer-producer, to attempt a similar effect. Love & Mercy alternates between two chapters of Wilsons life. In one, in which hes played by Paul Dano, Wilson stops touring with the group at the height of its popularity in 1964 after experiencing a nervous breakdown on a flight. Deciding his talents would be better expressed in the studio, he begins making music of stunning ambition. In the other, set in the 1980s, Wilson is played by John Cusack. Hes become a fragile, semi-reclusive figure surrounded at all times by the employees of Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), his live-in psychiatrist. Nonetheless, he reaches out and attempts to romance Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), a model turned Cadillac-seller.

The contrast between the two leads should spoil the effect. Dano looks uncannily like Wilson in the mid-60s, and his performance channels the charisma, and underlying fragility, Wilson had at his creative peak. Cusack looks nothing like Wilson, and given his long career playing the sharpest, most articulate guy in any room, it may take viewers a moment to adjust to the sight of him playing a broken man struggling to express himself. Yet an earnest attempt to convey the essential truth of Wilsons extraordinary career and difficult life animates both halves of the film, and both performances. Abused as a child, misunderstood as a professional, and kept a virtual prisoner as a middle-aged man, Wilsons story is one of genius struggling against exploitation, and not always winning.

…Director Bill Pohlad doesnt always sidestep the usual problems of musical biopics. A lot of exposition gets shoved into dialogueas when a band member tells a room full of people who would already know that Pet Sounds didnt sell that well in America, but did well in Englandand both Murry Wilson and Landy are portrayed as villains with no redeeming qualities. Giamattis performance is unexpectedly unshaded, which might be true to the real Landya shameless self-promoter with no sense of boundariesbut it still occasionally tips the film into melodrama. But the film also gets a lot right, particularly in the long stretches dedicated to the recording of Pet Sounds and Smile. These capture both the intricacy of music so groundbreaking it could throw the conservatory-trained pros of the Wrecking Crew for a loop, and the joy Wilson takes in recording it. Dano bounces from the pleasure of hearing the sounds that had previously been confined to his head make their way into the world, and for a moment, every other worry falls away.

Cusack and Banks are similarly convincing in the films 1980s stretch. Banks digs into what could have a thankless girlfriend role, conveying both what she finds intriguing about the strange man whom she meets while selling a carand who hands her a card with the words lonely, scared, frightened written on ithow that intrigue could turn into attraction, and how Landys attempts to keep them apart could just deepen that attraction. Cusack rarely lets himself be this vulnerable, and they bring a tenderness to their scenes together. Its an unlikely romance, but they make it make sense.

If they didnt, Love & Mercy wouldnt work nearly as well. The 1960s segments establish why Wilson matters, while chronicling his disintegration as he attempts to turn Smile into a teenage symphony to God. Its a tragedy driven by Danos strong work as a cracking wunderkind, and though its extremely well-executed, theres nothing unexpected in it. The 1980s segments turn Love & Mercy into a different sort of film, one determined to break free from the standard rise-and-fall-last-minute-redemption arc of films like Walk The Line. With other peoples help, Wilson has to find ways to live with himself and push back the demons during the long coda following his glory years, years biopics usually treat as postscript. To its benefit, the film doesnt try too hard to make connections between the two periods. It just lets each play out, and it rises on the harmonies created by the two chapters from the life of a man whos seemingly destined to create more joy than he can ever hope to experience.” (Keith Phipps, The Dissolve)

Access more reviews at metacritic.com.