In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Brian Wilson is the creative soul of the Beach Boys, but he paid a heavy price for his talent. That especially shows during his peak artistic years in the 1960s, as his inner demons and obsessions trying to please his abusive father drive him to a mental breakdown that would plague him for years. In the 1980s, with Brian barely functional under the domination of the unscrupulous Dr. Landy, Brian meets and falls in love with Melinda Ledbetter. As their relationship grows, she observes Brian's crippling subservience to the abusive psychotherapist with growing alarm. Ultimately, she must take action with a love willing to stand up to oppression she cannot ignore.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A tape box labeled "Good Vibe / Percussion" is visible in the background of one studio scene, and it refers to a real outtake from "Good Vibrations" recorded on September 1, 1966. See more »
When Melinda and Eugene are talking outside about Brian, camera crew members are reflected on the side of Melinda's car. See more »
[pounding on recording console]
We're *not* surfers, we *never* have been, and *real* surfers don't dig our music anyway!
See more »
First, there's concert footage of the recent Brian Wilson, himself, singing "Love & Mercy", and then at the very end there is audio of a brief recreated studio recording of Good Vibrations, with '60s Brian leading the dialogue. See more »
The version which premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival and a few subsequent public screenings contained a few extra scenes, such as an "I Get Around" studio sequence, and a scene where Wilson meets Phil Spector on the street. The closing song "One Kind of Love" was also absent from this cut. See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. Beach Boys fans may struggle a bit with this one since the light-hearted, airy feel to the "Fun, Fun, Fun" music of the band is mostly absent. Instead, director Bill Pohlad pulls back the curtain on the emotional and mental struggles of visionary songwriter Brian Wilson the band's creative force.
In an unusual artistic approach, Paul Dano plays Brian from the 1960's period that resulted in the revolutionary Pet Sounds album and the ongoing battle with his domineering father; while John Cusack plays Brian from the late 1980's - his most creatively bankrupt period and the subsequent debilitating influence of quackster psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).
The two periods are blended together as we (and Brian) bounce back and forth between the struggle of a budding musical genius working to release the sounds in his head, and a middle aged man so heavily medicated that speaking, eating and even getting out of bed are such overwhelming obstacles that music rarely registers. It's during the latter period that Brian is truly at the mercy of Dr. Eugene Landy. Giamatti sports a floppy wig and proceeds to rage at Brian while trying to charm Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), Brian's new romantic interest. Knowing this disgusting period was part of Brian's life only adds to the anger and frustration we feel not just as fans, but as human beings.
What sets this biopic apart is actually the performance of Dano and the peek inside the process of Brian's genius. Watching Brian work the musicians and mold the music on the fly is breath-taking, even though we see the challenges of his early mental issues. It's a joy to see a tribute to the studio session players known as "The Wrecking Crew" themselves the subject of a recent stellar documentary. It's during this period that the Wilson brothers' father (played by Bill Camp) constantly derides Brian and his "new" music. There is also some insight into the Brian vs Mike Love battles – Brian exploring his creative music, while Mike just wants to keep cashing in with their expected "fun" style.
Some may find the two-headed approach to be distracting, but it drives home the point of what a different man he was in comparing the mid-1960's to the late 1980's. Mostly, I found the 1960's portion to be an insight into what we hear from so many geniuses, regardless of their specialty. Brian says it's like "Someone is inside me. Not me." His struggles are non-relatable to others – even his brothers, and especially his dad. What is mostly a look at the darkness behind the "sunny" music, does come with real life redemption courtesy of Melinda's strength and witnessed in the video shown over the closing credits.
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