Bill Pohlad's film Love & Mercy, his first as a director, plays like a welcome working-out - an investigation into the typically troubled mind of a genius, from a haphazard screenplay ironically given structure and purpose by equally wayward direction. Pohlad's flourishes enliven the script - it's functional, in that it finds a workable middle ground between banality and excessive idiosyncrasy - though one senses that this filmmaker may yet be working out his own functions in this role. The least he could do is to fashion a decent film out of this material, and that he does. Love & Mercy is very watchable, with an unforced authenticity to its period details and a committed, well-cast ensemble that does much of the film's heavy lifting. Indeed, it gets fairly heavy at times, though the leads here seem unfazed, as Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack could each and all claim to have never been better. Their valuable work serves the story of Brian Wilson's struggle with fame well - it's an awkward story, narratively, though Love & Mercy at least acknowledges this feature (all too common among biopics). Its remedy is a combination of cross-cutting and sincerity, the former delivering some shape to the film's dual timelines, the latter giving it a sense of purpose. In its simplicity and its relative lack of innovation (a few artistic touches here and there don't quite cut it), purpose is exactly what Love & Mercy craves, and as Wilson's titular new composition plays, live, over the end credits, one feels that it has earned it. If nothing else, what Wilson's story may lack, he made up for in his songs.