Up until now, most (if not all) of the Wednesday Watch topics have been about series works. Today will be the first (if memory serves accurately) feature film. For those of you who might be new, the Wednesday Watch column is the Dude’s alternative or to let’s say compliment to the Friday Reads column. The Dude watches it instead of reads it. At least in most cases. In very limited circumstances, he watches and reads, but always at least watches. But don’t let that stop you from reading, if you like. And if you want to be a guest columnist in this charade, please e-mail your submission. Anyway, today’s contribution is Love & Mercy, the biographical drama about the life of Brian Wilson, co-founder of The Beach Boys. The Dude enjoyed the film overall. There obviously was some editorial license taken, but real life Brian Wilson (who is now 73) called the film “very factual”, so that probably accounts for something. Eight Nebraska libraries have Love & Mercy (DVD) according to WorldCat. It would make a nice addition to your collection if you aren’t one of those eight.
The film goes back and forth between two time periods: The 1960’s (Wilson played by Paul Dano, photo top right courtesy of Lionsgate); and the 1980’s (Wilson played by John Cusack, photo bottom right courtesy of Lionsgate). Apart from the fact that these two cats don’t really look anything alike, the juxtaposition and flashback/flashforward works with the story line. Both of these guys do an excellent job of playing Wilson at very different times in his life. The Dude (being one for nostalgia in this sort of way) especially liked the look of the 1960’s parts – the clothes, the décor, the houses, haircuts, and constitution of the characters (that’s a nice way of saying the women look like real women and the men act like real men, without the “nostalgic” sexism of course). Refreshing looking time period nonetheless, just before the carpet hit the walls on stairways and ceilings. And while the Dude has nothing against carpeted walls and ceilings (and personally digs Graceland’s Jungle Room), the look of the time period represented in the 60’s parts of Love & Mercy is outta sight. For the record, the Dude could find no verification of when exactly the ceilings of the Jungle Room and the hallway leading to it were actually carpeted (the room was created in the mid-60’s); he’s basically judging the time period from the shade of green.
Beach Boys singer (and Brian Wilson’s cousin) Mike Love is portrayed as a rigid clod (which is probably an understatement) who didn’t recognize or appreciate Wilson’s genius, being content with the status quo of manufacturing formulistic California Girls and Surfin’ Safari clones. Whether or not one gets into the business of arguing about a departure from their roots, man (as film version Mike puts it) was a good or bad thing, one can’t help but be moved by Mike’s apparent lack of empathy. Either he had no idea or was, as the film portrays him, an insensitive, self-centered clod.
OK, the film is about Wilson’s mental challenges (he suffers from auditory hallucinations, mostly abusive in nature, subsequent to his taking LSD, and continuing after he stopped taking it), his developing relationship with future wife Melinda Ledbetter, and his overbearing, manipulative, and terrifying psychologist (played brilliantly by high strung Paul Giamatti). The film also works by offering insight into the genius of Wilson’s making of music (e.g. the arranging, writing, and recording). The film aptly offers us a snapshot into Wilson’s head, not only when his creativity shined (and it should be noted still does today) by making music, but when he suffered (not only from lack of treatment for his illness, but worse yet, from exponential mistreatment). All in all, a worthwhile journey to experience by the viewer. So, if you are old enough (the Dude missed it by a few years) you might be inspired to get out your Pet Sounds album (and perhaps shake up an old school cocktail while listening to track #12). If you aren’t (old enough, that is), check out the CD from your local library. You probably won’t be disappointed. And while you’re at it, check out Love & Mercy. You probably won’t be disappointed with that either. Shaka.