Brian Wilson biopic: Love and Mercy

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Vidiot, Apr 17, 2013.

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  1. While a movie charting Brian's life up to the present day might have worked as a further promotional tool for his 1988 comeback, if not his first solo album as well, the "autobiography" from a few years later was bad enough - things would almost certainly have been different once a certain therapist was nudged out of the picture, but I just can't imagine anyone wanting to sit through that film once the inevitable morbid curiosity factor wore off! Besides, it would likely have become the attention of yet another lawsuit from Mike Love and the BRI camp, since I can't imagine Dr. Eugene Landy's heavily biased finger-pointing of the era going down well with the other surviving Beach Boys. For all its flaws, Love & Mercy is probably about the best we can expect from such a project, though I still feel that the entire history of Brian and his colleagues deserves to be told in a comprehensive Anthology style documentary series, especially when you think of the various stages in their careers together that could be represented with each volume...
     
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  2. Jason Manley

    Jason Manley Senior Member

    Location:
    O-H-I-O
    A film was very nearly made about Brian and Eugene Landy in the late 1980s. As this Chicago Tribune article from 1988 mentions, William Hurt was in talks to play Brian, with Richard Dreyfuss as Landy in a biopic about the two men.

    WILLIAM HURT MAY SIGN ON AS BEACH BOY

    I'm rather obsessed with LOVE & MERCY, so forgive my earnest reply about this topic.

    When I wrote my "review" of L&M on Amazon, I got kind of carried away and wrote all about the production struggles of the film as I had followed it for quite some time; probably since the late 1990s. I've since modified that posting and corrected some errors, etc.

    LOVE & MERCY (2015)

    As I mentioned in that long diatribe of mine :angel: there was a really long and winding road for the Brian Wilson Biopic to finally end up in the cinema. Frankly, without the insistence of Claire Rudnick Polstein and John Wells as well as the financial backing (and direction) of Bill Pohlad, I don't think it would've happened, maybe ever.

    Writing about this again got me thinking too about the unending glut of biopics coming out of Hollywood year after year. Within a few months of the release of the meager roll-out of L&M, the film STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON was released and made 200+ million. L&M was basically ignored during the awards season, although Paul Dano was nominated for a Golden Globe.

    I mention that because I'm still saddened that L&M didn't garner more box office attention though I certainly understand why. The subject matter had a limited mass appeal and the target audience for a film about Brian Wilson is getting up there in years. Where as the subject matter for STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON still has some contemporary appeal. NWA was breaking just as I was hitting my mid teens. So that music also still holds a special place for many in the 40+ age group as well.

    I'm interested to see how both BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and ROCKETMAN perform. I don't normally like to get wrapped up in box office results being the barometer of success with a picture; because frankly they don't have anything to do with artistic merit. But, I must confess I'm curious how they will perform relative to L&M.
     
  3. Jason Manley

    Jason Manley Senior Member

    Location:
    O-H-I-O
    Quick follow up to my post from October.

    ROCKETMAN yet to be released but clearly BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY has been a success for its makers. A couple of the critics I respect most (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post and Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune), however, really didn't think much of it. Not being a Queen fan, per se, I haven't bothered to go see it.

    I must confess though, I'm a little bummed by the love that BOHEMIAN is getting this awards season. LOVE & MERCY got almost zilch. Dano should have at least won a Golden Globe for his performance (he was nominated but lost to Sylvester Stallone). And I think there was a nomination for Best Original Song, as well.

    That's it. And I realize L&M is a smaller film but frankly, the performance of Dano is nothing short of trans-formative. The films' conceit was perhaps much too daring for general audiences; having two actors play the same person at different points in his life.

    I'm hesitant to say L&M was a better film than BOHEMIAN because I've not seen it and don't want to make that claim. I can simply say that L&M was a stellar biopic; one of the best I've personally seen.

    I think it will hold up for years to come too.
     
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  4. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Senior Member

    Location:
    Montreal
    Both movies have one negative thing in common-chronology issues. L and M has Murry selling Sea of Tunes during the 1967 Smiley Smile sessions, two years early; and Brian quitting the road after his breakdown is portrayed as happening just before he began Pet Sounds, when he was actually in the midst of doing Today! The issues with BR have to do with the timing of Freddie's announcement he had AIDS to his bandmates and the conception of certain songs.
     
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  5. Jason Manley

    Jason Manley Senior Member

    Location:
    O-H-I-O
    From what I understand though BR is a much more straight forward, paint-by-numbers, biopic.
     
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  6. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Senior Member

    Location:
    Montreal
    Yes, it's always forward moving chronologically, unlike the back and forth of L and M between the 1960s and 1980s.
     
  7. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Vancouver
    I think in the case of Love and Mercy, there was a bit more justification for moving the timeline around -- the movie was set during two particular and fairly short periods in Brian's life, so to incorporate a couple more significant events in his history they needed to have them take place within that time frame. But Bohemian Rhapsody covered something like a fifteen year span, so it felt like some of the events were moved around for no particular reason. (Also those things actually happened in Brian's life, while some of the incidents in Bohemian Rhapsody were just made up.)

    That said -- I would guess the reason they moved something like the recording of "We Will Rock You" to a later time is that if it had been in the right place chronologically, it would have come too quickly after another "how they made that song" scene. It was a pretty mechanical screenplay -- you can imagine them having a set of cards labelled "song making scene" and "concert scene" and "band argument scene" and "Freddie's personal life scene," and putting them on a flow chart to distribute them evenly across the movie.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
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  8. PhilBorder

    PhilBorder Senior Member

    Location:
    Sheboygan, WI
    I agree Dano seemed to channel Brian (although there isn't really much actual footage of Brian in the late 60's, so we don't know how he actually spoke and behave.) Interesting and creative scoring and evocative set design, but other than that I don't think L+M works. The other BB's are non entities, Melinda seems unfocused, and the Cusack section took me completely out of the movie. Appreciated the effort, but that section just did not work for me.
     
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  9. Jason Manley

    Jason Manley Senior Member

    Location:
    O-H-I-O
    It's admittedly not for everyone. The non-linear story telling is I'm sure a little off putting for some. And Cusack as BW either works for you or he doesn't, in my case I bought in.

    Once I heard that Oren Moverman was going to be involved with writing the screenplay it was pretty clear the story would be 'unconventional'. That's the films' strength, in my opinion.

    By taking a 'deep dive' approach with two specific passages of time (roughly 1966-1967, Dano and roughly 1986-87, Cusack) and then juxtaposing both Wilson's with each other it allows us to more genuinely appreciate and live in the man's shoes. We get to take a deep breath and "look around", so to speak.

    Another thing that approach does is more precisely focus on the creative process of the younger Wilson. So much of Dano's roughly 60 minutes on screen feels like 'fly-on-the-wall' type material. And I don't think that's by accident.

    And with what is hinted at with the 70s, the two idle shots of BW in bed, I think the viewer can infer that Wilson has kind of been to hell and back. And that maybe his fragility is what led him to fall in the arms of a Svengali like Landy.

    Either way, the trope either works for the viewer or it doesn't. But I was certainly pleased with how Pohlad and Moverman painted the portrait. It's an incomplete portrait, to be sure, but I feel like I understand BW even more having seen L&M. That's certainly the objective of most biopics and I'm not sure many succeed.

    You mentioned the scoring and set design and I'm glad you noticed it. Atticus Ross is almost like the 3rd director of this film with his mishmash of Beach Boys multi-tracks almost channeling BW's inner creative drive: it's very magical. And filming at actual locations in California was paramount to adding to the authenticity. Those scenes at EastWest studios and the 'recreated' Gold Star are amazing.

    I like to imagine a young person, 20-40 years from now reading about how PET SOUNDS is considered one of the greatest records ever and wondering why and then finding L&M and saying... "oh, I understand now".
     
  10. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

     
  11. jupiter8

    jupiter8 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ, USA
    I wish someone would make a Mike Love biopic :hide:
     
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  12. jwoverho

    jwoverho Licensed Drug Dealer

    Location:
    Mobile, AL USA
    While I don’t think Cusack was totally great in the part, I do think his involvement made a major difference in the project getting made. For that reason alone I don’t mind him playing Brian, even if he wasn’t quite quirky enough.

    In a related note, Aaron Eckhart’s withdrawing from the Dennis Wilson biopic effectively ended its development. So sometimes a notable Hollywood presence can make the difference.
     
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  13. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    Yeah that would be great! It would focus on Mr Positive, the exact lyrics he wrote, a huge
    section of the film dedicated to his contribution to Good Vibrations and how he had his
    then wife write down the lyrics while he drove to the studio, and how he wrote the lyrics
    to go with the bass line. Explaining his 'boy' 'girl' attraction writing techniques.
    Features a whole scene of naming and presenting 'Pet Sounds' with Brian to Capitol Records.
    A section on India and how he and The Beatles were buddies and how he told McCartney
    how to write Back in the USSR.
    Skip to 'Endless Summer' and how it was all his idea and he helped rebirth the golden oldies act.
    Moving onto 'Kokomo' and how it had no Brian Wilson involvement and it went to number one.
    How he got screwed out of royalties and how we finally went after what he was due.
    Mike 2018, praises how great Brian was and how 'now' how great the Pet Sounds and Smile
    arrangements were, and how he never said that he 'F'd with the formula'.
    Could be quite an epic film, bring in John Stamos, Hanson, maybe Dean Torrence for cameo's.
    I think we could wrap it all up in a half hour TV show for like..... 1 episode!
     
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  14. 2141

    2141 Forum Resident

    I too loved L&M! And you're right, it really should have received more attention that year. But I gotta say, I think I love Bohemian even more. It's just an easier film to digest and root for. Like you said, having two actors play the same person is definitely a stretch for any film. And although it did work in this case, I'm not sure it was the best way to make that movie. It may have contributed quite a bit to it's cold reception.
     
  15. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Senior Member

    Location:
    Montreal
    Hey, how about the triumphal (fantasy) ending where Mike gets Brian in a room, and they write songs together!
     
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  16. jupiter8

    jupiter8 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ, USA
    I think somewhere between Saint Brian Wilson and Evil Mike Love the truth lies...(although probably on a sliding scale)!

    I really liked Mike Love's autobiography-
     
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  17. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    100 percent agree, I think it craps all over Brian's dare I say.
    The audiobook is very insightful and enjoyable.
     
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  18. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Island
    Starting watching this movie with my girlfriend last night. She doesn't care for the early BB surf/hot rod sound but likes the later Pet Sounds era stuff. Its funny and I never thought about it until now, but unless you are familiar with Brian and his history, you would have no idea what was going on in this film. I was explaining things as it went but the whole Eugene Landy thing is completely unclear unless you know the story. Its never explained at all that he's a psychiatrist, etc. Even the earlier BB story is still quite vague to someone who isn't keenly aware of the history. Seeing it through the eyes of someone else really shows the flaws in the film.
     
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  19. rjp

    rjp Senior Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    three sides to every story.......yours.......mine......the truth
     
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  20. Tim1954

    Tim1954 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Finally saw this and thought it was damned good.

    After Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, it was very nice to see a movie of this caliber. Was it perfect? Not even close, but it was a absolutely respectable and the musical insights were more interesting than the aforementioned movies combined and multiplied by 10.
     
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  21. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    I have rally been into listening to the Beach Boys lately and noticed this on Amazon Prime, so I finally watched it last night. I knew nothing about BW except that he went through a period of mental issues. At first I was really bothered with them using two different actors to play the leading role as they looked nothing alike. I thought both actors did a fine job, but Dano looked like BW and Cussack did not. It didn't ruin the film for me, however, and I really enjoyed it.

    I particularly enjoyed the recording session scenes, especially with the Wrecking Crew. I knew that Mike Love was kind of a controversial figure here, but didn't know the details. In the movie, he came across to me as somewhat egotistical and jealous of Brian's stature, but not really a bad guy. He seemed more interested in money and record sales than artistic achievement but an important part of the Beach Boys. I don't know if this is accurate or not.
     
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  22. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    I don't agree with this at all. As I said in my post above I knew nothing of the history and completely understood what was going on.
     
  23. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    I'm not a young person, but I always wondered why PS was held in such high regard. When I got the reissue I started to get it, but this film really opened my eyes. I love the part where Rubber Soul inspired Brian to experiment and seeing the recording process was like an epiphany. Oh, I understand now.
     
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  24. mpayan

    mpayan A Tad Rolled Off

    My gut reaction watching parts of this again is a teary eyed why couldnt they just leave the guy alone and support him. He made such beauty. The music he could have made also. Heartbreaking.
     
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  25. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe RIP Vickie Mapes Williams (aka Equipoise)

    Money. Brian was the slot machine that the other guys in the band were depending on to keep paying off.
     
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