Love & Mercy

Yesterday the Brian Wilson biopic was released on DVD and so I headed over to Redbox to rent a copy. Brian Wilson is one of my all-time favorite musicians, a genuine prodigy, and also a tragically fragile human being given his decline into mental illness. I am amazed that he has been able to overcome the obstacles that he has and still continues to make good music even though he is now in his 70’s.

The movie, which Brian Wilson himself attests is highly authentic, alternates between 1966, when he was at the height of his creative ability while simultaneously slipping deeper into the ravages of mental illness, and 1986 when he was in the care of an excessively-controlling psychiatrist named Gene Landy, but also meets his future wife Melinda (to whom he is still married).

The year 1966 marked the release of the Beach Boys classic album Pet Sounds, which is today regarding as one of the very best albums made during the rock-and-roll era. Brian Wilson really outdid himself with this album, but its recording took the band away from its traditional surfer-music sound and resulted in a sizable fracture with his band mates, especially his cousin Mike Love, over creativity. Brian Wilson goes on to write Good Vibrations with Mike Love, but after that came the ill-fated SMiLE project, which the band ends up shelving.

At any rate, the movie may not be of much interest to someone who isn’t a Beach Boys fan. It was fascinating to me because I am quite familiar with their music and history, and so I was able to follow the storyline with a great deal of understanding. To someone who isn’t a Beach Boys fan, the plot might seem disjointed and scattered given the constant flipping between 1966 and 1986. What means the most to me as a Beach Boys fan is the film’s authenticity. That last thing I wanted was for the film to take liberties with these intimate parts of Brian Wilson’s life. So I am thankful for its accuracy.

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