Delighted to see Love and Mercy finally opening wide this weekend. We've talked about it before, and if you'll bear with us we're going to talk about it here, since it deserves more consideration than an end-of-week roundup will allow. (Indeed, the music of Brian Wilson, particularly during the unfettered peak of his creativity, captured in Love & Mercy, seems to invite that kind of obsessive revisiting.)
Just over a month after seeing it for the first time memories of it still remain. Two very different performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack, both of whom capture this guileless innocence that seems core to Wilson's being, a fragility that comes hand in hand with this incredible musical genius. The feeling that you're watching these incredible songs being born before your very eyes. The contrast between the documentary approach to the 1960s sessions (shot in the same studios where they took place) and the more somber approach to Wilson's desolation, and shot at rebirth, in the 80s.
Any movie based on facts is going to lie. A fully accurate depiction of events as they happened would turn forensic in a hurry, and yet a movie can be too slap-dash in its interpretation of real events. Love and Mercy from start to finish feels like it honors its subject, capturing beautifully the essence of his music, but also capturing the conflicts around them. (In one of its memorable extended sequences, it shorthands the lengthy genesis of "Good Vibrations", but frames it mainly as a willful compromise between Wilson and ever-contentious bandmate Mike Love, a joint effort to find common ground.) The movie goes deep, in multiple directions, to capture an elusive truth, and even when it boldly strikes out for Stanley Kubrick territory it does so to serve the rich and complex inner life of its subject, staking a claim for Love and Mercy as one of the deepest, most moving American movies of the year.