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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Love and Mercy

September 14th, 2015

Love and Mercy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Video on Demand

Love and Mercy

Love and Mercy is a movie about a real life person dealing with adversity. It's a movie about a real life famous person dealing with adversity. This movie practically screams Oscar bait. However, while it won over a lot of critics, Oscar bait movies can't always translate critical acclaim into mainstream appeal. Is that the case here? Is it worth checking out for fans of the The Beach Boys? Will those with limited knowledge of their music enjoy the film?

The Movie

We first meet Brian Wilson while he's at his piano talking about his thought process and trying to write a song. After a montage of record and performing throughout the opening credits, we again meet Brian Wilson, this time in the 1980s, while he's trying to buy a car. The saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter, doesn't recognize him. Because she doesn't recognize him and therefore doesn't treat him like a celebrity, he is able to open up to her about his anxieties, including the death of his brother. The conversation ends when Dr. Eugene Landy shows up and escorts Brian away. Melinda then sees the note Brian left for her, a note that says, "Lonely Scared Frightened".

We then flash back to the 1960s, Brian is on a plane and not handling it well. It goes from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack rather quickly. Once Brian and his two brothers, Dennis and Carl, are home, he admits he's been dealing with really bad stage fright this entire time. He simply no longer wants to tour. He wants to stay at home and work on new music while his brothers and the rest of the band complete the tour.

Back in the 1980s, Brian asks Melinda out on a date, but when he picks her up, Dr. Landy is there as well. They go to a The Moody Blues concert and when Melinda tells Brian how much she likes the song "Nights In White Satin", Dr. Landy becomes very interested in what she said. He's only had four lines and already you can tell something's not right here.

Speaking of not right, we go back to the 1960s with Brian trying to compose "God Only Knows". On a side note, I literally had to stop the movie at this point and listen to the song in full. I'm not the biggest fan of The Beach Boys, but this is clearly one of the greatest songs ever written. While working on the song, Brian makes the mistake of asking his dad about it. His dad was a song writer in his own right and had some success, but he was also an abusive father and a manipulative manager and the band had fired him recently. Fortunately, he has a lot more success in the studio. Unfortunately, because you know what state he is in in the 1980s, you know that success can't last.

I would be surprised if Love and Mercy doesn't pick up at least a few major nominations this Awards Season, perhaps even an Oscar nomination or two. There's a lot to like about the movie, especially the two leads, Paul Dano and John Cusack. I also like the splitting of the movie into the two timelines, as this gives the movie a bit more of a hook than most biopics have. Granted, a hook like this probably appeals more to critics, who have to watch multiple movies a week, than the average moviegoer, who sees about seven movies a year. It's the paradox of movie reviews, or any review for that matter. Professional critics tend to over consume whatever it is they are reviewing that novelty becomes the most important aspect they look for. That said, I still think the film will appeal to the average moviegoer as well. As I said, the acting is superb and the story of Brian Wilson's life is certainly engaging. There's enough music that fans of The Beach Boys will be satisfied, while showing the creative process should get those who haven't heard their music interested in correcting that mistake. Speaking of mistakes, I loved the part where the pianist slips up during a rehearsal and Brian loved it. "It was a mistake." "Well, if you repeat a mistake every four bars, it's not a mistake anymore."

And now I'm going to listen to "God Only Knows" again before tackling the extras.

The Extras

Love and Mercy didn't find a big audience in theaters, but did better than most limited releases managed. Because of this, is should be no surprise that the extras fit somewhere in-between the average limited release and the average first run release. They begin with an audio commentary track with Bill Pohlad, the director, and Oren Moverman, the co-writer. There are two featurettes, the first of which his an 11-minute making of featurette called A California Story. The second focuses on Brian Wilson and runs for 25 minutes. Finally, there are seven minutes of deleted scenes.

The technical presentation is mixed, but not because the transfer is poorly done. The film is two separate timelines and the early one is shot in 16mm compared to 35mm for the latter. 16mm doesn't exactly look great on Blu-ray, as there's a lot of grain compared to the average Blu-ray I've reviewed. Of course, this was an aesthetic choice, so you can't blame the Blu-ray for the grainier scene. You also can't ignore this fact either. It's not visually impressive, but handles the job when required. The audio is better with a great use of the surround sound speakers to envelop the listener, especially during scenes where we experience the voices Brian was inundated by.

The Blu-ray costs just $13, which is just $3 or 30% more than the DVD. That's a bargain.

The Verdict

I really hope Love and Mercy gets the attention is deserves during Awards Season. I fear it might have come out too early and didn't get seen by enough to be remembered, but it deserves at least to be nominated. As for the DVD or Blu-ray, there are enough extras that it is worth picking up over just renting on Video on Demand.

Filed under: Video Review, Love & Mercy, Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Bill Pohlad, Oren Moverman, Kenny Wormald, Bill Camp, Brett Davern