Under the Circuit: Love & Mercy



As we head into the home stretch of the year, we’re going to change things up with the Under the Circuit column a little bit. Rather than focusing on those who have yet to receive their first Oscar nominations, we’re going to take a second look at some of this year’s work that are underdogs in their respected races. To start this new form of, we’re going to look at one of the best reviewed films of the summer, the Brian Wilson biopic ‘Love & Mercy.’

Summer releases are dominated by blockbusters for the most part, but some strong adult fare found its way into cinemas this year, with Bill Pohlad’s look at the Beach Boy’s Wilson a leader in the pack. Not just in terms of its two main performances from John Cusack and Paul Dano, but it also featured an impressive turn from Elizabeth Banks.

cdn.indiewireLet’s start there in fact. Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, who meets the older Wilson (played by Cusack) in the 80s and helps him escape the clutches of his ill-natured psychologist (played by Paul Giamatti). Banks is great in the role and that part of the film truly goes through her. She’s been a popular and reliable actress for going on 10-years or so now, but she’s never really had a strong run for a nomination. With the Best Supporting Actress field looking to be a little light, perhaps there’s still room for her to make a move.

Then of course, there is the dual-performances of Dano and Cusack as the young and old Wilson. For my money, I prefer Cusack’s performance and see it as his career best, but both are extraordinary and deserving to be considered. It could be argued that Cusack is going to run into problems based on being pushed for lead. As I mentioned above, his part of the film with Banks is almost more her story, with his Wilson more of a cog than a driving force. He’s an excellent cog, and if they had gone supporting with him, he could very well be in the mix for a nomination.

John-Cusack-Brian-WilsonOutside of the performances, “Love & Mercy” should be more in the consideration for Best Picture. Again, it was one of the best reviewed films of the summer and it offers a bit of a change of pace to the music bio, even more so I believe than ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ which more people have as a dark horse Best Picture contender. Summer releases have to survive the onslaught of fall prestige pics, and right now ‘Love & Mercy’ is getting buried under them.

Maybe this will be one screeners save as I imagine it will play as well at home as well as it did on the big screen, but it will more than likely be an uphill battle for the film in the big categories.

  • Mike

    I hope this becomes a sleeper at the Academy.

  • Elizabeth Banks is SO GOOD. Really hoping she can crack a five, maybe if Vikander somehow gets into Lead? Or if JJL isn’t a thing.

    • Luke McGowan

      I think even if Vikander and Leigh succeed, Banks still has a chance for the fifth spot. Her biggest competition seems to be Fonda who has about four minutes of screen time. I think Youth and Love & Mercy are about on par in terms of accessibility. Here’s hoping!

  • Luke McGowan

    I think the sound team deserves a nomination too, not only for the awesome Beach Boys stuff but the way they built up the clinking and scraping in the kitchen scene right until you realise its all in Dano’s head. Brilliant stuff.

    My favourite scene in the movie is where Giamatti is in the control room of the recording studio and demands that Cusack come with him. Get it? He’s in the control room. Some might think its not subtle enough but I was nuts for it.

  • Ryan

    Such a wonderful movie. All of the performances are fantastic, and I would be thrilled to see any of them nominated for an Oscar. It’s a shame that the film will campaign as a Drama at the Globes because (a. There are a ton of music numbers and the film has the same light-hearted tone that usually gets less qualified movies into the Musical/Comedy category all the time, and (b. Because John Cusack would not only cake-walk to a very deserved Best Actor nomination, but would also have a decent chance at a win. A Best Picture: Comedy/Musical nomination would be awesome too. Alas….