Dir. Bill Pohland
Special Screening: Opening Night Film
The Richter Scale says: You may not know who they are, but I’m sure everyone has Heard at least one song by the Beach Boys, one of the most popular bands of the 1960’s. Sooner or later, someone was going to make a musical biopic (biographical picture) about this band, like they’ve done with many popular singers. What makes musical biopics so appealing, apart from paying tribute to a famous singer that comes with a massive built-in audience is that the lives that famous musicians live offer a challenge to any actor who takes on the main role (or to put it more cynically, a chance to win an Oscar). What’s interesting about this one is that it’s not about the Beach Boys, but about the band’s member that was hailed as the genius, Brian Wilson. Also, instead of giving us a highlight reel of Brian Wilson’s life, it focuses on two key moments that marked him and it dramatizes them fully.
Paul Dano plays him when he’s in his 20’s, when the band is already famous and Brian is going through a creative process that may change the direction of the band, but the pressures that come from all those he needs to satisfy, the band, his abusive father and his label lead to a psychotic break. John Cusack plays him during the 1980’s when he’s being treated by an abusive psychiatrist who is over-medicating him and he meets Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), a car sales-woman who ultimately saves him from this situation. Dano y Cusack have enough facial features in common that one can believe the latter could be an older version of the former, but both actors have also made careers out of playing characters who are charming through a certain madness. Dano spends his time looking elsewhere, thus nailing how disconnected from the world Young Brian is and Cusack applies a vulnerability he’s been perfecting for years. They’re both perfect for the role, but the one who walks away with the film (at least the scenes she’s in) is Elizabeth Banks playing a more serious part than we’re used to from her.
What’s even more interesting is that the film cares more about Brian Wilson’s mental illness than his music. Yes, we hear him compose and get a sense of his method, but we never see him in concert or see him adored by his fans. What we see are all the intimate moments in which he’s slowly getting lost in the abyss of his own psychosis, potently directed by Bill Pohland (who finds a unique visual language for each part of the film) and even though both parts of the film have their problems (the Dano section is visually more interesting, while the Cusack section has a more complete narrative structure), they both paint a fascinating portrait of the mind from which we get much of the most treasured music of the 20th Century.
Love & Mercy will be screened again at Cinépolis in Guanajuato City on Saturday, July 25 at 5:00 pm. Don’t miss it!!!
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