“Lying in bed, just like Brian Wilson did.” Those were just lyrics to me for the longest time, from a song that frankly, I didn’t like very much. Until recently, I didn’t know a lot about Brian Wilson besides the fact that I liked the Beach Boys, and that “God Only Knows” is one of the greatest songs ever written – its sad but beautiful at the same time. That was until I saw Love and Mercy. The Brian Wilson bio-pic hit select theaters this summer with a quiet opening targeted to Beach Boys and music fans alike. I, being the latter, went to see it on a rainy day last weekend and learned about the trials and tribulations of the genius that is Brian Wilson. The movie was intense, with Paul Dano and John Cusack sharing the screen as a young and middle-aged Brian Wilson.
At first, knowing Dano and Cusack well as actors, I was worried I wouldn’t see past their star presence, but within five minutes I was so incorporated into their world that all I saw was Wilson. From the genius, to the mannerisms, to the descent into neuroses, it was troubling and beautiful. For most of it I wanted to either yell or cry, but overall they exemplified the beauty that is musical genius distraught with real mental illness.
I thought their portrayal was passionate and moving, showing viewers something they could understand: a sweet person who needed help but was swept away by life, often being taken advantage of for his almost childlike view on the world. They make you see the world through Wilson’s eyes; how scary and big a life could be from someone that maybe just wasn’t able to face it. Listening to Pet Sounds now, I realize he was crying out for help; but when I first heard it, I didn’t realize. It was just light music. Not the slow descent into mental illness that resulted in almost three years in bed. The movie was moving and beautifully acted, with Elizabeth Banks stealing hearts as a caring but independent force to be reckoned with.
My review? E for excellent. I suggest you watch it to fully appreciate the genius that is the Beach Boys and Pet Sounds.