Written By: Oren Moverman
Cast: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks, Dee Wallace, Jake Abel, Erin Darke, Brett Davern, Joanna Going, Jonathan Slavin, and Kenny Wormald
Synopsis (via IMDb): The life of reclusive Beach Boys songwriter and musician Brian Wilson, from his successes with highly-influential orchestral pop albums to his nervous breakdown and subsequent encounter with controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Coming Soon adds the following description of the plot: “Love & Mercy” centers on the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. Rather than a bio pic, the film will take an unconventional look at seminal moments in Wilson’s life, his artistic genius, his profound struggles, and the love that kept him alive.
Why it could succeed:
Musical biopics often can have an inherent appeal to the Academy, and so can movies about mental illness. In some ways, Love & Mercy represents potentially the perfect Oscar mix. You have material that voters will be interested in, music they likely listened to when they were younger, a screenwriter in Oren Moverman who they’ve nominated before, and a pair of overdue actors playing different stages in the life of the same man. Those two actors are John Cusack and Paul Dano, both of whom should have been nominated by now. They’re under the direction of high respected producer Bill Pohlad, and the rest of the cast includes Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti, to name a pair. There’s definitely a lot to like about this one, which makes me think that there’s a chance this could be an under the radar title that more prognosticators like myself should be considering for major attention. Brian Wilson’s life is a a juicy subject, that’s for sure. We might be sleeping on a big one, though to what degree remains to be seen.
Why it might not:
On the other hand, we have no clue if this film is any good, frankly. Pohlad isn’t an incredibly tested filmmaker, Moverman has made plenty of things that Oscar has ignored, and both Cusack and Dano (Giamatti too, though he finally got his citation) have been snubbed multiple times in the past, so why not again here? This isn’t a traditional musical biopic, so while going in a different could produce something unique, it could also produce something that’s off-putting to those who want it to fit into a certain box. Basically, even if it’s good, it won’t be a surefire nominee or anything of that sort. This isn’t the sort of automatic prestige contender that can just waltz on in and collect prizes. It’s going to have to really earn it, and only so many smaller flicks can do that, so the odds aren’t necessarily in the favor of Love & Mercy right now. It’s super early though, so keep that in mind.
If everything breaks right here, then Love & Mercy could be one of the acting showcases that the Academy goes in for, though something more is certainly possible. You have to at least consider its possibilities for Best Picture, Best Director (for Pohlad), and Best Original Screenplay (for Moverman), as well as a few techs, though I’d say those all are different degrees of long shots, give or take Original Screenplay, which could easily wind up in play if it’s well received. The real potential damage here will be done in the acting categories, namely Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Either Cusack or Dano will go Lead, with the other one in the Supporting field with Giamatti, while the female side will be all Banks’ for the potential taking. Cusack, Dano, and Giamatti, are the realistic contenders here, but remember, the movie is still sight unseen as of now, so we have no real way of knowing. My best guess is that this could debut at the Toronto Film Festival and look to capture votes from there.
Love & Mercy is currently seeking distribution (both domestic and foreign) and will likely play the fall festival circuit before coming out at some point in 2014.
Actor (Cusack or Dano)
Supporting Actor (Cusack, Dano, or Giamatti)
Supporting Actress (Banks)
Original Screenplay (Moverman)
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!