I said it last September and I’m saying it again: Paul Dano‘s performance as the youngish Brian Wilson in Bill Pohlad‘s Love and Mercy (Roadside, 6.5) is almost spookily great. I’m telling you straight and true this is 2015’s first must-nominate performance. “Wilson’s disturbed spirit hums and throbs in the 30 year-old Dano, who looks like he gained 35 or 40 pounds to play the genius Beach Boy maestro in his mid ’60s blimp period,” I wrote on 9.8.14. “You can really feel the vibrations and sense the genius-level ferment and the off-balance emotionality. Inwardly and outwardly it’s a stunning, drop-dead transformation and the finest performance of Dano’s career, hands down.
“Not to mention John Cusack also as the 40ish Wilson in the same film, which shifts back and forth between the mid to late ’60s (i.e., the recording of Pet Sounds and Smile) and the mid to late ’80s (i.e., “the Landy years”). For the last few years Cusack has been on a downturn, playing ghouls and creeps and psycho killers…my heart aches for the guy. True, he’s had two good roles over the last couple of years — Richard Nixon in The Butler and the husband-masseuse in David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars — but this is a revelation. Cusack plays a gentle but very solemn and intimidated Wilson during the period in which he was under the firm hand of the disreputable Eugene Landy, who died in 2006. Cusack is child-like and Gentle Ben-ish, and as convincing and fully submitted to his task as Dano is to his. For the first time in my moviegoing life I wasn’t bothered by two actors playing the same character — quite a landmark.