A rare light week in the slate of summer movie screenings for critics gives me a welcome chance to tout a movie that came out last week (and continues at the Drexel Theater). "Love & Mercy" is a must for Brian Wilson fans … and pretty good bet even if you aren't.

A rare light week in the slate of summer movie screenings for critics gives me a welcome chance to tout a movie that came out last week (and continues at the Drexel Theater). "Love & Mercy" is a must for Brian Wilson fans … and pretty good bet even if you aren't.

The biopic takes a less-traveled but effective approach in intertwining two key periods in the life of the tortured genius behind the Beach Boys' best music. Paul Dano ("There Will Be Blood") plays Wilson in the '60s, focusing on Wilson's creative burst that became the seminal "Pet Sounds" and his subsequent mental breakdown. John Cusack plays Wilson in the '80s, a confused and over-medicated man under the care of a manipulative doctor (Paul Giamatti) when Wilson strikes up an unexpected romance with a car saleswoman (Elizabeth Banks).

"Love & Mercy" overlaps these periods of love and turmoil in Wilson's life, creating an episodic vibe that magnifies the impact of both. Director Bill Pohlad maintains a great pace that overcomes some unevenness.

Dano's young Wilson is acting standout - Dano is a fiery actor, and the period of genius and madness is a perfect showcase. While he isn't quite as gripping, I applaud the casting of Cusack (a known actor, and one who isn't exactly a Brian Wilson lookalike). Cusack brings a sweetness to a man trying to see through a haze.

The film is bolstered, of course, by Wilson's fantastic music of this era, but it gets an assist by a pitch-perfect score by frequent Trent Reznor collaborator Atticus Ross.