I grew up loving the Beach Boys as a band, but I always thought co-founder BrianWilson was a weirdo. Until I saw “Love & Mercy.”
My friend Roz saw it with me. She never cared for The Beach Boys, but after watching the movie she, too, was spellbound.
How could this guy have had so much talent and yet have been so misunderstood?
Paul Dano plays the young BrianWilson with such passion and tenderness that he brought out every maternal instinct I have (and my only child is my adopted cat).
I would adopt Paul Dano in a heartbeat if he needs a second mother. Expect Oscar buzz for Dano, who fearlessly takes us on Brian‘s joyous then bewildering journey as the creative genius behind the band’s music.
I felt horrible when I realized that I was one of the fans who rejected the “Pet Sounds” album, which was released in 1966 (when I was 7, but I wanted to be a “California girl.” (The hit song “California Girls,” with music by BrianWilson and lyrics by Mike Love, was a track on the album “Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)” released in 1965.)
At age 7, my mentality was the same as Mike Love’s: sun, surf and fun.
Not to give too much of the movie away, but when we first meet the older BrianWilson (played by John Cusack), he seems sweet but wacky, while Melinda Ledbetter (portrayed by Elizabeth Banks) seems like the most patient car salesperson ever.
I hope the next time I want to buy a car I meet such a nice salesperson instead of the sleazy guys who have sold me cars in the past. Maybe I will ask John Cusack to help me shop for a car… But I digress…
There are a few reasons everyone should see this movie, regardless of whether they dig or they dug The Beach Boys.
Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack will grab your heart by its strings and gently tug until you think your heart will actually break.
Okay, that was my chick reaction. But my friend Roz was also moved, although I don’t know if she cried.
You will be captivated by Dano’s portrayal of Brian as he gets lost and goes from a genius who practically sees music dancing in his head to a guy who can’t function.
Later Wilson falls victim to a wicked, out-of-his-mind shrink.
Whether you’re religious or not, you will be glad that BrianWilson went inside that Cadillac dealership. Melinda Ledbetter meets Brian long after the heyday of the Beach Boys, but she is a kind soul and as both Cusack and Dano portray him, BrianWilson may be one of the most gentle souls to wander the earth (or at least L.A.).
And as much as you care for Dano, Banks, and Cusack, you will hate, fear and ultimately detest Dr. Eugene Landy, the whacked-out shrink deliciously played by Paul Giamatti. I used the word delicious because Giamatti had me on the edge of my seat alternately wanting to fight for Brian or wondering if I was nuts, too.
Giamatti’s Landy is so powerful and consuming that anytime he was on screen, the movie suddenly felt 3D. I seriously wondered whether he might reach out of the screen and shake me (or worse)!
My first impulse after seeing the movie was to snag a “Pet Sounds“ CD, and I’m still listening to it. I’m wondering how an album with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” wasn’t a bigger hit in 1966.
Based in Santa Monica, CA, Terry Gardner is a freelance journalist whose passion for travel, scuba diving and the environment led to a career as a travel journalist. She writes for various websites, including the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post. Terry's website is www.terrytravels.com. Her Twitter and Facebook handles are terrytravels1.