I don’t know if I’ve ever made a movie recommendation in these precincts. If not, here’s the first: Go see the Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy.
Both Paul Dano and John Cusack portray Wilson’s descent into and return from debilitating craziness about as well as any actor could. A lot of people have been saying that Cusack’s take on Wilson is inferior to Dano’s. I don’t buy it. Cusack, who plays Wilson from the 1980s, has all the tics and quirks down. (Dano plays Wilson as he records the Pet Sounds album in 1966.) You might watch Cusack-as-Wilson and say the actor’s rendition is sort of…, oh, I don’t know, empty. Well, that’s only because Brian Wilson — post-LSD, post-breakdown, under the thumb of a mad shrink — was nothing more than a shell of a human being.
Brian Douglas Wilson
Even today, supposedly back to normal and “cured” of his own madness, Wilson has the look of a man who’s witnessed the atomic blast that destroyed his hometown and is now trance-walking through life, waiting for the next airburst. Panic disorder, auditory hallucinations, paranoia — they’re as devastating to an individual as the explosion of a W88 warhead is to a population.
As a dramatic study of psychiatric illness, L&M is superb. It’s even better as the reimagined tableau of a genius turning his entire existence into a musical instrument in the service of producing “the greatest album ever made.”
That’s what Brian Wilson was trying to do when he was conjuring Pet Sounds. You can make the argument that he succeeded and I wouldn’t object.
God Only Knows
That said, here’s the last in my series of songs dedicated to The Loved One during her birthday week. If you do go to see Love & Mercy, you’ll learn who once said this was, “[T]he greatest song ever written.” You’ll be surprised.
One more thing: If you love music and want a glimpse into the making of a classic, watch this two-part vid [Part 1, Part 2] on the making of GOK in the studio. Then watch/listen to the final cut below.