The Rotten Tomatoes consensus (87% among top critics):
As unconventional and unwieldy as the life and legacy it honors, Love & Mercy should prove moving for Brian Wilson fans while still satisfying neophytes.
True, except the part about neophytes. As ubiquitous as Beach Boys music has been in the past, if you don’t have a general familiarity with the band don’t expect to find it here. Love & Mercy focuses on the life of Brian Wilson in the latter stages of his involvement with the Beach Boys, and on a sour period years after departing it. The obvious comparison brought to my mind was Shine. Not showing the Beach Boys’ rise to fame is one of the ‘unconventional’ choices the film makes, and there are others.
Normally I celebrate fresh approaches in movies, but Brian Wilson’s story is so powerful that it speaks for itself. Though there are flashes of brilliance, the film too often bobbles the ball and has trouble getting out of its own way. I would classify it as a not entirely confident or accomplished approach. Nonetheless, performances are good, and the story strong enough to pass through. Love & Mercy is good, even great at times. But its lack of vision as a whole film stops it from being wholly great. Between Shine and Love & Mercy, I’ll take Shine. 7/10
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A Note on the actors: Kudos to Elizabeth Banks on a job well done here. I became enamored of Banks with her supporting but pivotal role in the exceptionally underrated psychological drama The Uninvited. And if I don’t get around to a separate post, 2015 will forever be known as the year of Paul Giamatti.