When one thinks of The Beach Boys, their lightweight early-'60s pop hits come to mind: catchy, distinctly California ditties such as "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Surf City," "Surfin' U.S.A.," and "I Get Around." The band—made up of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine—ultimately matured and developed their music beginning with 1966's well-received, less-commercial album "Pet Sounds," but behind the scenes relationships had begun to splinter as band leader and songwriter Brian Wilson's substance abuse and psychological breakdown escalated. In a hypnotic rush of imagery, "Love & Mercy" gets at the essence of Brian's experiences during this period and, later, in the '80s when his mental illness and the controlling abuse of psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) nearly swallowed him whole.
Portraying the eldest Wilson sibling at different stages of life, John Cusack (2014's "Grand Piano") and Paul Dano (2013's "Prisoners") deliver impassioned performances that truly immerse the actors in their complicated shared role. Playing the '60s Brian, Dano hauntingly conveys his twentysomething character's increased introversion and waning mental health, his struggle to please unforgiving father Murry (Bill Camp), and his fight to creatively branch out from the bubblegum melodies which typified The Beach Boys' rise to stardom. In the mid-'80s, Cusack embodies the loneliness and victimization of a broken middle-aged man suffering from a form of schizophrenia whose burgeoning romance with former model/current Cadillac car dealer Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) proved to be his savior in getting him away from his manipulative therapist Eugene Landy.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review