Once you know the story,” the Love & Mercy trailer tells us, “you’ll never hear the music in quite the same way.” Nicely put. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson comes to the big screen in all his messed-up glory in Love & Mercy, with the flawed genius played in early years by Paul Dano and later by John Cusack. The pic follows Wilson from the group’s rise in sunny SoCal through the darkness of his burgeoning mental illness. As their popularity soared — making magic in the studio, conquering charts and minds, battling the Beatles (and sometimes winning) — Wilson’s inner demons festered.
The film plays heavily to the 1980s midlife crisis that could have killed him to the midlife romance that pretty much saved him. Paul Giamatti plays Eugene Landy, the dodgy shrink who went from helping Wilson to overmedicating him to dominating his life — and business affairs. Elizabeth Banks is Melinda Ledbetter, who met Wilson at a car dealership and became his wife years later; in the meantime, Landy did all he could to keep them apart. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions open the River Road Entertainment pic June 5. Bill Pohlad directs from a screenplay by Michael A. Lerner and Oren Moverman. Love & Mercy, named for the title track of Wilson’s 1988 solo debut album, is part musical biopic, part cautionary tale and part redemption song. And oh, those songs.