No matter how old you are, if you grew up by the beach in Southern California – you had the sounds of the Beach Boys thrust upon you. Growing up down the street from Surf City USA, I don’t know that I went more than a month throughout my childhood without hearing the Beach Boys’ famous harmonies. In fact, every year in elementary school we had “Dance Day” where each grade level learns a different dance and presents it to the rest of the school. Every year, there’s at least one dance set to a Beach Boys track. Now older, and more interested in things like mental health and illness, a movie like “Love & Mercy” that follows the sounds of my childhood and the struggles of the man behind the music, this movie was an easy sell for me.
Off the bat, I’m going to say that this movie is worth the theater experience for any Beach Boys fan. The movie flashes back and forth between Brian Wilson at the height of the Beach Boys’ career and his future, more mentally unstable self. The film gives us an unseen lens into the famous band, and the struggles of Brian Wilson and is maltreatment from Dr. Eugene Landy. It’s all these things wrapped in the love story of Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter.
Man oh man, are the performances in this movie great. Especially from the two Brains, John Cusack and Paul Dano. Their finesse in playing both the starts of mental health degradation, to the height of over-medication were completely enthralling. Also, I always love seeing Elizabeth Banks in a more dramatic role. It’s like she took the no-bullshit-from-no-man from her “30 Rock” character, stripped the comedy from it, and applied it to this role. I was all about it. As per usual, Paul Giamatti was great as the guy you love to hate.
There were some also some surprise cast choices, at least to me, in the movie. Tyson Ritter of the All American Rejects made a few appearances. Also, Max Schneider of YouTube and modeling fame landed a role as songwriter Van Dyke Parks. Whether or not anyone sees it as one, I’m counting Max as another point on the #TeamInternet scoreboard.
While it felt a little dragged on at times, I really, really enjoyed this movie. It’s a movie that makes you want to do an abundance of research on the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and Eugene Landy after you watch it. It’s both an interesting new look into songs that many grew up with, as well as a lens into mental health and the consequences of over medication. It’s worth it’s price in a ticket.