Sunday, October 25, 2015

Love and Mercy

I finally got around to watching the film based on the psychological struggles of Brian Wilson, the creative backbone of the Beach Boys, called Love and Mercy. My sister enjoyed the film when she saw it in the theaters this past summer, so when it came out on DVD, I decided to rent a copy.

In some ways the film was confusing as it went back and forth from around the time Wilson and band were recording the album Pet Sounds, an album that is slightly overrated in my view because it was one of those "concept" albums trying to compete with the Beatles' equally overrated Sgt. Pepper, and the period of the 1980s, when Wilson was under the clutches of one Dr. Eugene Landy, one of the biggest assholes of the twentieth century. He was a complete and total quack. The Beach Boys tended to attract a lot of assholes--some would argue they even HAD assholes in the band meaning Mike Love, who doesn't come off all that great in the movie, but people know he has a tendency toward liking money and being weird. Since Brian Wilson and his current wife Melinda were involved with this film, the information in it is pretty much on the mark about Wilson's story. It is Wilson's story about his mental breakdown and his trying to get his life on track--this is not a movie about the Beach Boys. The other brothers and bandmate Al Jardine hardly register a blip in the story.

In defense of Mike Love, he was involved in collaborating with Wilson, and therefore he was due a share of the royalties of many of their hits. He had to sue Brian because the real asshole responsible for screwing him over--and all of the Beach Boys, for that matter--Murry Wilson, father of the Wilson boys--was long dead. Apparently Brian has no ill will toward Love, and vice versa. In fact, I don't think Wilson has a mean bone in his body. I think he might even be too forgiving of people who wronged him like his father and Landy, or maybe he feels there is no point now that they are long dead to hold a grudge. The fact Brian Wilson is such a good person is why he was so screwed over and so troubled so much of his life. I am glad he is on track now. His wife Melinda has a lot to do with it.

Anyway, the actors in the film look nothing like the real people. I was willing to suspend disbelief in that. The depiction of Melinda Ledbetter Wilson was more along the lines of Teresa Wright in the 1942 film classic Pride of the Yankees than the real Melinda, who is VERY no-nonsense in interviews. It is clear who is in charge in the Wilson household, and it ain't Brian. Melinda in the film is much more passive, more patient and understanding, where the real one I don't believe puts up with any b.s.

Anyway, I enjoyed the picture although there was almost nothing in the film I didn't already know. I say "almost" because I didn't know Murry Wilson had gotten revenge of sorts when the Beach Boys had fired him, and he turned around and had a Beach Boy knockoff hit with a Beach Boy knockoff group called The Sunrays. The song was "I Live For the Sun," a record I remember well but had forgotten about it for years until it appeared in this film. It sounds more Jan and Dean-like or Four Seasons-like than Beach Boys, but it is still good after all these years:

The group had only a couple of hits then they went their separate ways.

Anyway, the film merits a three-and-a-half out of five stars. The music is worth it, much of it from actual Beach Boys tapes.

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