Sunday, November 29, 2015

Indie Review: Love and Mercy and The End of the Tour (2015)

Hello, Bloggers! So, I have not only watched two films this weekend, but two biopics about two famous male artists. So I figured I'd create a post where I review them both. The first one I will start off with is Love and Mercy, which is about Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys and depicts his bouts with paranoid schizophrenia as well as the woman that saved him and nurtured his condition.

What I thought was so incredibly fascinating about this film was that it wasn't necessarily a biopic per se because it doesn't give any deep focus on the rise and fall of the Beach Boys' or Brian Wilson's fame. It is mostly a character study on a man with mental illness and focuses on how it influenced his artistry as well as those around him that enhanced his condition making it worse, or helped him overcome it. It does show us Wilson's unorthodox methods of making music which I wasn't aware of despite being a big Beach Boys fan.

Despite its serious subject matter, though, it's also quite entertaining. During the opening sequence and the scenes where the Beach Boys are recording music, I would start doing a little dance or moving my head because it captures the magic of their music. As I'm writing this review, their music is still ringing in my head. Yet I love it.

Now onto the filmmaking aesthetics. I loved the cinematography by Robert Yeoman and how he shot the scenes with Young Brian as if they were filmed on a Super 8, capturing the 60's feel. Some of the editing is also pretty spot-on. My favorite edited sequence is one where after Older Brian and Melinda, played by Elizabeth Banks, are kissing each other goodbye after their first date, the film cuts back to Young Brian playing "God Only Knows" on the piano. The performances are also spot on. John Cusack was a great Older Brian, capturing the nature of Brian's condition, and Paul Dano was in top form as the Young Brian who slowly succumbs to his condition. Because they are playing the same character, the two actors luckily complement each other nicely. I also want to give a shoutout to Elizabeth Banks as Brian's eventual wife Melinda. Despite given the traditional supportive wife/girlfriend role that is typically incorporated in "man in crisis" movies, Banks is able to incorporate refreshing authenticity and sympathy into what could've been a stock character.

Overall, I would say Love and Mercy is a refreshingly unorthodox biopic that works as both a character study on mental illness and a fun nostalgic trip. I'd give it an A.


Now onto The End of the Tour, which depicts author David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel, and David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who did an interview with him for Rolling Stone. As the interview progresses, not only does Wallace reveal details of his past, but Lipsky starts to learn a bit more about himself.

The first thing I'll delve into that I liked, and for this I'll create a little FYC campaign: Best Adapted Screenplay. The script is a beautifully flowing ocean as it is one conversation between two men almost stretched out to its 110-minute screen time. Not only does the film live or die by its screenplay and dialogue, but it does so by the two actors speaking the dialogue.

Jesse Eisenberg provides solid and steady work as David Lipsky. But as great as he is, Jason Segel is a revelation as David Foster Wallace. An absolute transformation in mind and not just physically with how he wears glasses and long hair. While he showcases a rather low energy, Segel is able to use that as a tool to mask Wallace's turmoil while channeling his demure nature. Wouldn't be surprised to see him be the latest member of the Apatow clan, along with Steve Carell and Jonah Hill, to score some awards love in the future.

Overall, I would say that The End of the Tour is another unorthodox biopic that is a demonstration of how one long conversation can change your perspective on life. The screenplay is able to grasp you in despite it being dialogue heavy as well as the actors that lift it from the pages. This film might be too pseudo-intellectual for some, and drags in small places, but I would still recommend giving it a watch. I'd give it an A-.