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.
Let’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.
Outside 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.