Film Friday #239

Love & Mercy (2014)

Love & Mercy follows the life of Brian Wilson, the key musical force behind iconic band the Beach Boys during two key phases of his life. Paul Dano plays a young Wilson in the period after the band’s initial success, during the conception of Pet Sounds and the initial abandonment of SMiLE, while John Cusack plays him in later life after he has become a virtual recluse at the hands of his psychologist, Dr Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). These two timelines play out concurrently giving insight into Wilson’s unique personality, fragile psyche and unbelievable musical talent. Far from presenting a standard biopic, director Bill Pohlad attempts to give the viewer a glimpse into Wilson’s mind, the auditory hallucinations he experienced and his attempt to express the music in his head while not shying away from his emotional disconnection from those around him, his issues with his father, his struggle to share his art with an immature audience and his drug use. Ultimately the question that is posed is, “does madness inspire genius or does genius lead to madness?”. I grew up with the Beach Boys as I think many people did and would consider myself a somewhat superficial fan, not knowing very much about the band or Wilson. I went to see this mainly because it got good reviews from a number of bloggers I read regularly. I left the film feeling like I wanted to delve so much deeper into everything Wilson created because he was such a fascinating individual. I think a lot of this is down to the outstanding performances across the board. This is probably Cusack’s best performance in a decade but he is completely blown off the screen by Dano’s visceral portrayal of the younger Wilson while Giamatti is impressively frightening and manipulative as Landy. I was also very impressed with Elizabeth Banks in a rare serious role playing Melinda Ledbetter, a car saleswoman who became an important part of Wilson’s life while he was under the “care” of Landy. I don’t think you need to be a Beach Boys fan to enjoy this, just a fan of creativity, uniqueness and passion. Outstanding. 4.5/5

Surfing... you're doing it wrong

Surfing… you’re doing it wrong

Song of the Sea (2014)

All that Ben (voiced by David Rawle) can remember from the night his sister, Saoirse, was born is that it’s also the night his mother (voiced by Lisa Hannigan) disappeared. Since then he, his dog Ku and Saoirse have lived with their father Conor (voiced by Brendon Gleeson) in a remote Irish lighthouse and Saoirse has never said a word. When Saoirse is found well but washed up on the beach wearing a cloak her mother left behind, her and Ben’s grandmother (voiced by Fionnula Flanagan) steps in the and the two minus Ku are shipped off to the city. It is here that Ben discovers that Saoirse is a silke, able to turn into a seal and the only one who can save the fairy folk from Macha, who has been turning them to stone by stealing their feelings. Now Ben will have to put aside his angry feelings towards his sister and join her on an epic adventure to save not only her and her kind but also himself. While on the surface it might appear that Song of the Sea is about magical creatures it is as much an exploration of grief, loss and what it means to be a family all of which are presented in a sensitive and engrossing manner. It is also gloriously animated, turning every frame into a rich and breathtaking experience. If you are more used to a Disney-style of animation, this fanciful and mystical Irish tale might take a bit of adjusting to but I found it beautiful and haunting and much closer to something like studio Ghibli. I am not sure if very little ones would be able to follow the story and it does get a little scary in bits but there is enough visual wonder to keep any viewer entertained. Lovely. 4/5


Ben wondered if it might be time to lay off the acid

True Story (2015)

New York Times reporter, Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) finds himself disgraced and out of a job after it is discovered that one of his articles has misrepresented certain facts. When he receives a phone call telling him that Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of murdering his wife and three young children, has claimed to be him he is fascinated. After visiting Longo in prison the two strike up a friendship and Mike spots a potential book opportunity. As he attempts to determine whether Christian has committed the crimes he realises that the two of them are very similar in many ways, which he hopes to use to drive his book, but who is playing who and what is the true story? On paper this movie sounds great but even though I saw it less than a week ago and it’s based on real life events I am struggling to remember very much of what happened in it. Mr O got so bored he went home to have a nap halfway through it. Hill and Franco are both okay in their roles but Felicity Jones, playing Mike’s wife is chronically underused and the pay off at the end is far too small to justify the plodding pace of this supposed thriller. Very skippable. 2.5/5

Even Mike was bored with his own life story

Even Mike was bored with his own life story

Admission (2013)

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) works in the admissions office at Princeton deciding each year who will and won’t get to attend the hallowed Ivy League college. She lives with her long-term partner, Mark (Martin Sheen) in a stable but very routine relationship. Portia loves the simple order of her life and her only dream is to beat her rival, Corinne (Gloria Reuben) to Dean of Admissions when the current Dean (Wallace Shawn) retires. But when Mark leaves her her life is thrown into turmoil and she escapes by visiting the unique Quest school at the invitation of its principal, John Pressman (Paul Rudd).  Here she meets Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) a brilliant student with a rocky past who she may or may not have a personal connection to. As Portia spends more time at Quest and gets to know Nat and John better she starts to embrace the idea of a bit of disorder in her life and starts to wonder if she’s been missing out all along. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a film that features a woman getting a new lease on life after being dumped but I found Admission to be funny and quite sweet and the whole Princeton admissions element was fascinating. Jeremiah was a really fun character as was Lily Tomlin playing Portia’s free-spirited and feisty mother. 3/5

See... it's a sex contract. I learned about them from 50 Shades of Grey

See… it’s a sex contract. I learned about them from 50 Shades of Grey


  1. Ha I love the fact that your husband left to have a snooze half way through! He’s my hero!

    1. abbiosbiston

      I wish I could pretend that was the first time he’s done that.

  2. ive seen the two latter ones and I think I liked TS a bit more than u (or ur husband) did. I found Admission to be pretty mediocre. Love and Mercy sounds amazing, hope I get to see it soon

    1. abbiosbiston

      I just felt like the pace was off on True Story. Mr O has the attention span for a gnat though. Unless it’s something about war so he often either falls asleep or wanders off during moviies.

  3. I keep meaning to watch Song of the Sea. It looks great!

    1. abbiosbiston

      It’s lovely. I hope you get to check it out.

  4. theipc

    Very nice – I saw Admission once and thought it was decent but those other three look like they’d make me die.

    1. abbiosbiston

      I think the others probably aren’t for you.

  5. Nice reviews! I SOOO want to see Song of the Sea. You definitely liked Admission more than I did. I’m not too bothered about seeing the other two…

    1. abbiosbiston

      Song of the Sea has a very Studio Ghibli feel to it in some ways. I think you’d really enjoy it.

  6. I was with you the whole way until Tina Fey and sex contract.. 😉

    1. abbiosbiston

      Ha ha… you know that’s not in the actual movie, right?

      1. I agree with you in that it should be in there ha. And 30 Rock rules.

  7. Nice reviews! I really want to check out Love & Mercy. It’s a bit early to say but I think it’ll have a successful awards run. Every review so far has been glowing. Admission and Song of the Sea sound good. I’ll check those out eventually. True Story looked like it had potential but I’m guessing it didn’t deliver. Besides, I’m so sick of James Franco. Probably the most overrated person in any artistic field right now. UGH.

    1. abbiosbiston

      I would love it if Paul Dano got some nominations. He truly is spectacular in this. So with you on James Franco. The only thing he was any good in was Springbreakers.

  8. MIB

    Good post as ever! 🙂

    Does the Beach Boys film talk about how they used to rip off Chuck Berry songs for their early hits? 😛

    Song Of The Sea is one I wouldn’t mind seeing.

    1. abbiosbiston

      Thank you!

      I think Love & Mercy gets going a bit later than that era. Possibly a good thing.

      I think you’d enjoy Song of the Sea. It’s very beautiful and mystical.

  9. I will avoid Life Story, but I wasn’t that interested in it to begin with. Ooooh I LOVE Song of the Sea, glad you enjoyed it Abbi but you’re right it’s a bit darker for the kiddies I think. I still haven’t got around to Love & Mercy but I really should watch it. The director is based here in Minneapolis, he’s a famous producer as well who produced Brokeback Mountain, Tree of Life, etc. I’ve seen him a few times in one of our fave brunch places.

    1. abbiosbiston

      If you run into the director again you can tell him that I was a huge fan!!

  10. […] always look forward to Abbi’s mini reviews on Film Friday for recommendations and what to […]

  11. My husband really like True Story and I watched a few minutes at the end and it did seem kind of boring. Really want to see Admission now, I love Tina Fey.

    1. abbiosbiston

      I know a few reviewers who enjoyed True Story. It was a good concept but I just struggled a bit with the pace. If you like Tina Fey I think you’ll really like Admission.

  12. I am going to seek out Admission (because Paul Rudd) and will keep my eyes peeled for Love & Mercy, it looks really good!

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