I’ve been putting off facing the truth about Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy, which is that it’s underperforming. This despite two award-worthy performances (Paul Dano and John Cusack), great reviews and notions that it’s probably the most Best Picture–worthy 2015 release so far. After four weeks in a maximum of 481 theatres, the Roadside Attractions release has earned only $10.5 million, which feels anemic to me. It’s still playing at five L.A. plexes but the juice appears to be just about spent.
The Love & Mercy gang at 2014 Toronto Film Festival premiere screening.
I realize that indie-ish, character-driven dramas are always marginal performers but I was figuring (hoping?) that Love & Mercy would nudge its way into the high teens or even the low 20s before stalling out, and then maybe bounce back on home video when award season happens (top-ten lists, critic trophies, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, Spirit Awards). But to barely break $10 million…wow.
This seems to indicate that the core audience for Love & Mercy, mature quality-seekers and Beach Boys fans, are relatively few in number. That or a lot of these viewers simply decided to wait for the film to start streaming. Why didn’t it catch on a bit more? Was it because of the darkish mood and (let’s be honest) the somewhat sluggish pace in the film’s second half? Is it because only boomers are interested and under-40s couldn’t care less? I know that my son Jett, 27, and his girlfriend Cait saw it early and liked it a lot, and that when they got home they both did a lot of googling about Brian Wilson, etc.
When Showbiz 411‘s Roger Freidman called it a flop in a 6.26 column, I asked Roadside spokesperson David Pollick for a response. “Love & Mercy is an indie hit,” he claimed 10 days ago. It doesn’t really feel that way to me. It feels like a mezzo-mezzo that’s winding down, and it really breaks my heart to say that.
So far Love & Mercy seems to have performed about as well as Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, which played for 115 days during the 11.14 to 2.15 award season and for all of that effort earned only a lousy $12,096,000.
After all the fervor that began at last September’s Toronto Film Festival and which re-charged in the weeks before Love & Mercy‘s early June debut, it’s very dispiriting to see this labor of love deflate like a party balloon. Here’s hoping for that end-of-the-year bounce I spoke of.
Pollick responds: “$10.5 million is usually cause for celebration for indie films, not the death knell. The movie will cross $11M this coming weekend. And the 440 theaters that continue to play the film dropped just 23% from last week. Keep the faith, man, you’ve been our biggest proponent!”