Posts Tagged ‘John Cusack’

‘Love and Mercy’ unevenly charts the personal struggles of the Beach Boys’ musical genius

July 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 10, 2015

Love and Mercy is the uneven new biopic about Brian Wilson, the brilliant but troubled musician who helped propel the Beach Boys to the heights of stardom in the 1960s.

The story unfolds on two tracks, not unlike Woman in Gold, another recent movie based on real events. In the 1960s and 1970s, Wilson, played by Paul Dano, wrangles with his occasionally baffled brothers, cousin and other bandmates about the direction of the band, which has already hit it big. He also fights with his manipulative father, Murry Wilson (Bill Camp). Murry, who is separated from Brian’s mother, openly berates his sons for having fired him as the Beach Boys’ manager, and he denigrates Brian’s musical experimentation. Brian, torn by these stresses, begins dabbling with hallucinogenic drugs and starts losing control of his life.

These scenes are intercut with a separate storyline — it seems to be set in the late 1980s — in which we see Wilson after he’s bottomed out due to mental illness and substance abuse. The main story here involves Wilson’s tentative romance with car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Ledbetter is baffled by the extent to which Wilson has surrendered control of his life to a manipulative father figure — in this case, a malevolent psychiatrist named Gene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

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‘Identity’ is a killer: The zippy murder mystery/psychological thriller that could!

September 29, 2012

The year: 2003. The times: So different from today.

Nine years ago, I had recently finished a master’s degree but not found work at a daily newspaper. (Remember those?!) The Internet had yet to achieve its status as a nearly omnipresent component of first world living, although it was moving in that direction, and Apple was near the beginning of its current unparalleled streak of success. (The iPod was not quite two years old at the time, and not nearly as physically diminutive, digitally capacious or all-around nifty as today’s models.)

Streaming video was then a relatively new feature of the Internet. I remember fiddling around with my computer one night and viewing the different movie previews (trailers, in the biz) on a page on Apple’s website.

One of previews on that page was for Identity, a thriller written by Michael Cooney and directed by James Mangold. I still remember the tag line: “Identity is a killer.”

The preview intrigued me, but I had little intention of seeing the movie. I generally shy away from scary movies, and it was clear that Identity was full of killing. (It’s also very possible that I viewed the preview months after Identity hit theaters — on April 23, 2003, according to

Some months back, I ended up reading the script for Identity on the web, and I enjoyed it. And just the other week, I actually watched the movie — legally, through a streaming video website, as it happens — for the first time.

My verdict? I liked it. It is well paced and hits a variety of notes. Over the course of the story, characters experience confusion, panic, terror, resignation, hope and redemption. A strong cast, led by John Cusack, carries the script through a few weak patches.

The story begins as several cars converge on an isolated Nevada desert motel and are trapped there when the rain washes out the road in two different spots.

Limousine driver Ed (Cusack) is desperate to get help for Alice York, a woman whom he accidentally hit and grievously wounded while driving a shrewish fading actress. But he eventually abandons the effort; the motel is completely cut off, with the storm even disrupting attempts to radio for assistance from a state corrections department vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »

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