a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Love and MercyI really hate it when my critical colleagues are raving, and I go see a movie that has been hailed everywhere and I think “Wha….?” Love and Mercy” is another small film that has been over-hyped and arrived far-too-early for Oscar. I mean, it’s JUNE! Not September…

You can always tell by the release date. And putting this serious-minded film out in JUNE and expecting it to last until the Oscar season hits in earnest, which let’s face it is the fall, at the earliest, is really hoping for a little too much in this case.

I mean, it’s OK, with three great supporting performances, if you count John Cusack’s older iteration of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys “genius” as supporting, plus an astoundingly good turn by Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti playing Wilson’s “Evil” psychiatrist/doctor/keeper/jailer to the max. Well, those three performances will last, if the film company keeps pushing them.

But it’s a long, long way from here to September, as the song goes. And Paul Dano for Best Actor?!? You’ve got to be kidding! He put on weight and flails around and stares and zones in and out aand is not a very compelling center to this bi-fircated film. “Love and Mercy” is literally two films. One about the young Brian(Dano) and one by about the old(er) Brian done stunningly by John Cusack, who has never been this good.

Dano was better in “Twelve Years a Slave” and even better in that Canadian film where he played a child molester. He plays bad good.

But here where we are supposed to identify with this crazy mixed-up kid that is the young super-self-indulgent Wilson, well, it was hard to relate to his crazy. He stares a lot and that is supposed to convince he’s schizophrenic. Or something like that.

Cusack is MUCH more compelling as the older Wilson, really going THERE as far as the mental illness is concerned. He COULD get a supporting nomination, even though he’s the lead.

You see the film is split in two, and if it WASN’T it would not seem original at all. You really need one actor to identify with. Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and Marion Cotillard in “La Vie En Rose” come to mind as similar Oscar-winning musical bio-pics. But the lead was played by ONE person. Not two.

Cutting Brian Wilson in two does not help us like him more. And I think it cuts its’ Oscar chances in two, if it ever gets that far.

The really revelatory performance was Elizabeth Banks’, an actress not none for her complexity, or dramatic chops. Here she totally nails the role of Melinda, the good, normal and stunningly beautiful Cadillac sales person, who Wilson falls in love with in middle age and who saves his life.

In a weak actress field, and aren’t they always these days? Banks might pull it out. She and Cusack are terrific together. But “Love and Mercy” has a hard slog getting to November and awards time.




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