Where does genius end and madness begin? It is certainly a fine line and one that may not have a clear definition. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson has toed that line for his entire life. The examination of that line is what drives LOVE & MERCY. The brilliant script by Oren Moverman (I’M NOT THERE) and Michael A. Lerner gives us glimpse at the life of Wilson as a young man and an older man. The younger Wilson is played by Paul Dano, the older by John Cusak. They are both wonderful in their own way. Yeah, maybe they could have used make-up to make Dano appear older, but this works just as well. Maybe better. The young Wilson is already dealing with bipolar disorder. He can’t tour anymore, so he stays home while The Beach Boys go on tour. While they are touring, Wilson stays home and writes and records the classic album Pet Sounds. He has to deal with an insensitive, overbearing father and the politics of being in a successful band. Wilson has a creative voice that needs to be heard, while Mike Love wants more hits. Love wants to be The Beach Boys. The older Wilson is in a hell created by a mix of his own mental illness and the controlling asshole, Dr. Eugene Landy, played by the wonderful Paul Giamatti. Landy keeps Wilson controlled by over-medicating him to the point where he is more crazy. Wilson meets Melinda Ledbetter (the equally wonderful Elizabeth Banks) while shopping for a Cadillac, and she sees Wilson’s kind heart and Landy’s evil one and slowly learns what is going on. But she is powerless to stop it. LOVE & MERCY shines a light on how Wilson’s mental illness came to the surface and how he had to overcome it with the help of a woman who would eventually become his wife. I am not a Beach Boys fan, but Pet Sounds is one of my favorite albums of all time. This honors the music and the creative process while examining how a genius toes that line that leads to madness. It’s a wonderful film. Entertaining, heart wrenching and triumphant. LOVE & MERCY is a winner. — Alan Yudman

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