I am a huge fan of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. I have all their cds and have seen The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson (solo) in concert many times. I even spent a night with Mike Love and Carl Wilson in Syracuse in the early 1970’s after their show! I rate the Beach Boys as the greatest American band of all time! (#2-The Eagles, #3-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, #4-Bruce and the E Street Band, #5-The Doors).
Brian Wilson’s story is a very complex one and difficult to convey in a movie. The story is common knowledge for most rock fans, so I will summarize it. (If you don’t know the story, stop reading now! Potential spoilers!) In the 1960’s, he was a musical genius effortlessly cranking out hit after hit with the Beach Boys, but he wanted to veer off into more creative directions. This desire provokes intense conflict with band members and his domineering father, Murray (Bill Camp), who wanted him to stick with the previously-very-successful formula. He also placed intense pressure on himself to create an exceptional and groundbreaking album, since he wanted to surpass the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, which had just been released. These issues, as well as drugs such as LSD, eventually cause a psychotic break! (This occurs shortly after he completed Pet Sounds, which is in just about everybody’s top 10 albums of all time.)
Brian then starts treatment with a psychologist — Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamattti) who first starts out helping him, but winds up being abusive, exploitative, and taking over his life.
Brian meets Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) when he comes to the Cadillac showroom to buy a car. They start dating, but Dr. Landy sees her as a threat and tries to break them up. Eventually, with Melinda’s help, Brian is freed from Landy’s clutches, re-discovers his muse, and starts a solo career.
(No Spoilers Past This Point!)
The 1960’s Wilson is played by Paul Dano while the 1980’s Wilson is played by John Cussack. I had no problems with the two actors (who don’t look very much alike) playing the same character, but the movie gyrates between the 60’s and 80’s which, at least for me, gave the movie a choppy feel rather than being a seamless whole. The other problem I had with the film is that Wilson’s father and Landy are both simplistically portrayed as purely evil people. There are, however, some interesting scenes in the music studio while Wilson is making Pet Sounds, (which is most of the soundtrack). The actors are all excellent, especially Giamatti and Banks.
Although Wilson’s story is compelling, the movie was not consistently entertaining and sometimes dragged. The film just didn’t have enough “Good Vibrations”! It’s worth a trip to the BS for the soundtrack, but, as far as the film itself, it’s only a solid rental. Most reviews, however, have been excellent, so perhaps I was expecting too much.