Bill Pohlad directed and produced Love & Mercy (2015), a biopic of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys fame. This is Pohlad’s portrait of the talented singer and composer Wilson and is not a “cradle to grave” biopic as he puts it. The film focusses on two different parts of Wilson’s life that is punctuated with his mental illness, which is a phase that not many of us maybe familiar with.
The first phase takes you into the heart of the meteoric rise of The Beach Boys, and the second part takes you to one of the most difficult times in Wilson’s life – his breakdown and treatment in the hand of Dr. Eugene Lundy (Paul Giamatti). While Dr. Lundy helps him in his recovery he also ends up controlling Wilson’s life and keeps him as a virtual prisoner. But, Wilson somehow finds the courage to break free from Dr. Lundy’s clutches with the help of Melinda Ledbetter (Emily Banks). Paul Dano plays the role of a young Wilson and John Cuscack as the older Wilson.
I got an opportunity to interview Pohlad in 2015 in San Francisco when Love & Mercy was shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival. We spoke about the making of Love & Mercy, Paul Giamatti, his love for music and his role as a producer and working with Ang Lee and Terrence Malick. Pohlad helped produce Lee’s Bri Award winning film Brokeback Mountain and Malick’s Tree of Life.
Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy,” is a compassionate film about Brian Wilson, the gifted and creative co-founder of the Beach Boys. This California band defined American music in the 1960s, and were a huge source of inspiration and influence to many musicians in the US and around the world, including the Beatles.
“Love & Mercy,” is not a biopic film from “cradle to grave,” Pohlad explains. And yet, it is not a definite portrait of Wilson he adds. “This is my portrait of Brian Wilson,” he says. Wilson went through a lot in his life and we only see a part of it in the film he adds. What we see in the film leaves us with a better understanding of Wilson and his struggles and how love rescued him. Need I mention that the music in the film is a treat to fans of the Beach Boys? And if you have never listened to their music – my suspicion is that you might like their music once you hear it.
“Love & Mercy,” is unsual in that it has two actors playing Wilson at different stages in life. Paul Dano essays the role of a young and tormented Wilson during the height of the band’s popularity. John Cussack plays the older Wilson, who is under medical treaatment of Dr. Eugene Landy played brilliantly by Paul Giamatti. You’d think having two actors play the role of Wilson would not work. Oddly enough it works very well. Dano captures the young Wilson’s nervous energy and creativity brilliantly, while Cussack captueres the nervous mannerism and that strangely wooden expressions of the older Wilson. The film looks at two different periods of Wilson’s life that is filled with love, angst, abuse, addiction and music.
Elizabeth Banks is superb as Melinda Ledbetter Wilson Wilson’s love interest and the person, who rescues him from the cluthes of the controlling doctor.
LISTEN: BILL POHLAD ON “LOVE & MERCY,” BRIAN WILSON AND THE BEACH BOYS
We start off our interview by asking Pohlad why it took him so long to make his second film? How did he become interested in making this film on Wilson? Why did he cast two different actors to play Wilson? We explore the musical synergy between the Beatles and the Beach Boys during the 1960s and how they influenced and inspired each other. We talked about the connection between the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds,” and Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Even today “Paul (McCartney) and Brian (Wilson) are still good friends,” says Pohlad. He worked closely with Wilson and his wife while making the film.
We also spoke to Pohlad about his role as a producer and how he worked with Ang Lee on “Brokeback Mountain,” and Terence Mallick on “Tree of Life.”
“Love & Mercy,” releases June 5, 2015 in San Francisco bay area. The film stars John Cussack, Paul Dan, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks.
Here are my 3 picks of films releasing in June. Each belongs to a different category. I have seen two of the films and watiing to see the third.
The first film is Paul Feig’s “Spy,” starring the funny lady Melissa McCarthy paired with Jason Statham. Now, this defintely is an unlikely pair since we associate Statham with action films. Others in the film include Jude Law, Rose Byrne and others. The film is written by Feig, who loves making funny, women-centric films. He made “Bridesmaids,” and “Heat.” I have not seen “Spy,” yet. But, I have seen a trailer of the film and it looks like I might enjoy watching it. The film releases on June 5, 2015.
Director Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy,” is about Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, an incredibly gifted composer and singer. But behind that beautiful and peppy music was lot of pain and suffering and that is what we get to see in “Love & Mercy,” Pohlad focusses on two important segments of Wilson’s life and shows us how Wilson dealt with his inner demons and addictions. This is a touching film and I came away learning so much about Wilson. And if you area a fan of Beach Boys like I am, you will want to see this film. Yes, one has read the stories and seen TV interviews of Wilson, but Pohlad’s film brings it all together and helps you understand Wilson a little better. The film releases June 5, 2015. Stay tune for my interview with Pohlad about the making of the film.
Dana Bachman’s “The Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around The World,” was the opening night film at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival. This is a touching documentary that shows how Make-A-Wish Foundation and the city of San Francisco came together to make Miles Scott, a 5 year old boy’s dream come true. Scott was diagnosed with leukemia and fighting for his life and one of his wishes was to hang out with his super hero Batman. His wish came true in such an incredible way that it reinforces your faith in the kind and generous spirit of human beings. The cynic in you is pushed to the background for a few second when you watch this film and see how the entire city of San Francisco changed into Gotham, and Scott got to hang out with Batman as Batkid and rescue quite a few people. The mayor San Francisco pitched in, as did the Police Chief, the San Franciso Giants and others. This was a moving and inspirational film and it was wonderful to see so many people come out to support Batkid realize his dreams. The film releases June 26, 2015.