Love and Mercy
June 18, 2015
Love and Mercy (*** ½) PG-13
On one of those TV talk shows the other day, I chanced upon Brian Wilson, mastermind behind The Beach Boys, who, along with his wife, lamented the fact that it had taken twenty years to get the story of his life’s journey dramatized on screen. The amount of time it has taken to get the film off the ground was somewhat surprising considering that the subject matter is so ripe with storytelling possibilities. I mean, here you have a man who battled almost insurmountable odds—an abusive father, mental illness, etc.,—and was still able to churn out some of the most brilliantly produced and widely recognized slices of pop music of the last half of the twentieth century. The good news is that the dramatic retelling of the Brian Wilson story has finally arrived and it is every bit as engrossing and involving as one could have wished.
Make no mistake that this film is the story of Brian Wilson and not the band, The Beach Boys. The group’s story has already been dramatized in not one but two made for TV movies made during the last 25 years. It’s refreshing that the film stays focused on Brian Wilson and his struggles while relegating the members of the group, Brian’s brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and neighborhood friend, Al Jardine, to supporting players.
Director Bill Pohlad, working from a script by writers Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner, have structured the film into two absorbing halves that eventually come together in a satisfying and cohesive whole by the end.
John Cusack & Elizabeth Banks in Love and Mercy
The film cuts back and forth between the young Wilson (Paul Dano) as he attempts to construct the album Pet Sounds, which would eventually come to be regarded as his masterpiece. We also get a glimpse of his attempts to follow it up with an even more ambitious project titled Smile, during which he suffered a mental breakdown.
The other story deals with a 1980s version of the songwriter (John Cusack) in the throes of coping with mental illness, the death of his brother Dennis and the crooked Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) who is clearly taking advantage of Wilson and abusing him as well. This section of the film charts how the man’s life is literally saved by the love his future wife, Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), whom he chances to meet when attempting to purchase a car. Melinda would eventually set the wheels in motion for Wilson to get his life back from the charlatan Dr. Landy.
The film is technically superb in all departments. It’s well shot and has great attention all details, period and otherwise, but is also a feast for the ears in the way that the music has been deconstructed for the sequences illustrating Wilson’s creation of Pet Sounds. The Brian Wilson story may have taken twenty years to see the screen but with a finished product as satisfying as Love and Mercy it’s hard to quibble about the wait.
Love and Mercy is playing in Charlotte.
Jurassic World (** ½)
Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that the lesson learned in the first three installments of the Jurassic Park franchise were that humans and genetically engineered dinosaurs could not coexist. I also thought that it was pretty well decided that an amusement park featuring dinosaurs wasn’t going to work considering the multiple lawsuits and obvious body count that would have ensued had the events in those films really transpired. Having that information to draw on, the whole premise of Jurassic World is dubious at best. I kept wondering, in lieu of past events, how the masterminds behind the Jurassic World theme park could convince the public that this experiment would be safe where the others weren’t. This conundrum is one of the many things never satisfactorily explained during the course of Jurassic World. Though I know it’s only a movie we’re talking about here, I couldn’t help but wonder how they pulled that one off. It’s one of the great mysteries of the cinema, I suppose.
Taken on its own terms, and with a healthy suspension of disbelief, Jurassic World works fairly well and will please those with a fairly high level of nostalgia for the other films in the series. Those of us who were around when the original film hit theater screens some twenty two years ago, however, will be reminded just how great the original was and how much the other films in the series fall short in comparison. Jurassic World may be better than the second and third installments in the series but that’s faint praise.
The film opens with brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) being whisked off over the Christmas holidays to the theme park, having been invited by their mother’s sister, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Claire is the career-minded sort, serving in her executive duties at the park and clearly having little to no interest in children. Ex-military man Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is enlisted by Claire to help sort things out once the park starts exhibiting ‘technical difficulties.’ Owen’s plans, of course, are thwarted by the villain in the piece, an opportunist named Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to take the dinosaurs and use them as military-styled killing machines in military battles. Eventually, the dinosaurs begin running amok and the familiar shenanigans ensue with patrons running for their lives and expendable characters dropping like flies.
The main thing that separates this film from the other entries is the inclusion of a new type of dinosaur called the Indominus Rex. We learn that it’s a cross breed of some sort but the filmmakers never take the time to explain what exactly she is actually made of which leads to frustration for the viewer. Too many questions like this are unresolved but for some people that simply won’t matter. I guess the lesson here is to enjoy the film for its dinosaur attack sequences, forget the story, and maybe you’ll have a good time. Less discriminating viewers should beware, however.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.