James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

REVIEW (Theatrical): LOVE AND MERCY (2015)

Here’s the first part of my review of this terrific new film, as published on the Jasper magazine blog.


An effectively stylized glimpse into Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson’s troubled life composing what remains as the arguable pinnacle of the modern American popular music canon, in the brilliant Love and Mercy we find depicted his mid-1960s creative eruption as well as the sad, bizarre interlude twenty years later when the shattered Wilson, his work by then rightly venerated and admired, nevertheless found himself under the mental and chemical duress of an avaricious vampire posing as devoted therapist.

In the film’s boldest stylistic conceit, the overlapping, intersecting movements of this symphony find Wilson portrayed by two capable, established actors: Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) and the top-billed John Cusack (High Fidelity). Neither of them look especially like Wilson (nor each other), but then Love and Mercy isn’t seeking a reading as a standard biopic of a troubled artist’s rise and fall, so it’s probably reductive to criticize the visual verisimilitude of the actors (Todd Haynes’s highly stylized I’m Not There, a six-actor portrayal of key moments in Bob Dylan’s life, carries out this conceit ad extremum.)

But in that biographical sense, Beach Boys fans familiar or not with the backstage stories will no doubt find much red meat to enjoy. Being cognizant of most of the details of the Wilson story gave this reviewer great pleasure at seeing the often deft inclusion of a myriad of compelling biographical detail regarding the band, the creative rivalry with The Beatles, the controlling and abusive father figure, Brian’s aversion to touring, the mythical recording sessions, and so on.



About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

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