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Love & Mercy
by Mary Nyiri

U.S.A. 2014
Directed by: Bill Pohlad
Writing credits: Oren Moverman, Michael Alan Lerner
Principal actors: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti
122 minutes

A man goes into a Cadillac showroom and sits in one of the cars. He asks a beautiful, blond sales woman to sit with him inside the car. Although she feels a bit insecure, she agrees. So begins a dramatic change in the life of Brian Wilson, the incredibly successful songwriter for the Beach Boys.

Flashbacks to the 1960s depict a young Wilson (Dano) struggling with finding his inner voice after the meteoric rise to fame with pop tunes. He asks to quit touring so he can concentrate on what he thinks will be his best album ever, Pet Sounds. Although the group agrees to let him quit the tour, they are not too pleased with the new style of music. Flash forward to the late 1980s where a somewhat disconnected Wilson (Cusack) shyly asks to take the lovely Cadillac sales woman, Melinda Ledbetter (Banks) on a date, of sorts. Ledbetter truly enjoys her time with Wilson but feels uncomfortable with the close watch of Wilson’s psychotherapist, Dr. Eugene Landy (Giamatti). She is also shocked at the number of pills the doctor has Wilson taking, as is Wilson’s housekeeper who conspires to hide the pills. Questioning the doctor, however, Ledbetter finds herself banned from contact with Wilson. The rest of the film looks back on early songwriting days, parties, breakdowns and best of all, the music with a final resolution to the question of whether Wilson truly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The love of music and the love of a good woman come together, complimented by terrific performances by Cusack, Banks and Giamatti, for lots of Fun, Fun, Fun! Not just for Beach Boy fans.