Take a Drink: for every trippy experience Brian has.
Take a Drink: every time Brian has an unconventional method in the recording studio.
Do a Shot: every time there is a time jump.
Finish your Drink: for the Genius that is Brian Wilson.
By: Movie Snurb (Two Beers) –
We open the movie to see a pudgy Paul Dano as Brian Wilson sitting alone at a piano in a recording studio while talking to himself. While the opening credits roll we are taken through a documentary-style trip watching The Beach Boys perform at different venues. Then, after the credits, we jump forward 20 years into the future to a Cadillac dealership where Wilson (now John Cusack) meets Melinda Ledbetter, (Elisabeth Banks) a car salesman who ends up saving his life.
We jump back and forth through time between Cusack’s older Wilson and his last years under the control of Dr. Eugene Landy and Dano’s young Wilson, beginning with his anxiety attack on a plane and then through recording Pet Sounds. The film plays brilliantly with this style and it’s a real trip watching Pet Sounds getting made.
Getting back to the flow of the film; it works really well jumping from the 1980s to the 1960s. While Cusack’s story is playing out we get to go back and see inciting incidents in Brian Wilson’s life though Dano’s performance. I feel like if the movie would’ve gone straight through time instead of using time jumps it wouldn’t have worked as well.
Using two actors with that style wouldn’t have worked because after an hour of seeing one actor the audience wouldn’t have adjusted to seeing a different actor for the last hour. They would’ve had to use one actor and the storytelling would’ve gotten lost with attempted make up trying to make an actor look 20 years older, which I don’t think would’ve worked.
This is why Dano and Cusack should be praised for their portrayals of Brian Wilson. They were both playing Brian at very different times in his life and you can tell while watching the film both actors were 100% committed to understanding the Brian they were portraying. You never get distracted from going back and forth between Cusack and Dano, which I think is a testament to their performances. Also, Dano sings some of the songs in the film and he’s pretty good, just showing the extra mile both actors took for their performances.
Not only should Cusack and Dano be praised for their performances, but also the entire cast was amazing. Banks’s turn as Wilson’s saving grace was excellent. She’s really been having a great year with Pitch Perfect 2 and now Love & Mercy, Banks has been around awhile, but this film proves that she’ll be around for lot longer. Also Paul Giamatti as Dr. Landy was great; you never have a good feeling about him and Giamatti does a great job to get you to hate him.
My last toast I’ll give this film is when we flash back to the young Brian Wilson days, specifically when they are in the recording studio, it feels like a documentary. Watching Dano as Wilson record Pet Sounds in the actual studio where Pet Sounds was recorded and seeing “The Wrecking Crew” perform the music was a real trip. With this documentary-style filming you get the feeling that you’re actually witnessing the true genius that is Brian Wilson.
I feel like the story of Wilson and LSD wasn’t as predominant as it should’ve been. If you know the story of Brian Wilson, you know (SPOILER) Dr. Landy diagnosed Wilson as a paranoid schizophrenic, but Landy was medicating Wilson with psychotropic drugs causing Wilson to think he was schizophrenic and giving the illusion to the people around him he was (Spoiler Over). However, the movie I felt didn’t do the best job in showing it was the LSD affecting Brian in the 60s instead of him being sick.
Overall, I thought the film was phenomenal. The minor flaw didn’t ruin the film at all. Pet Sounds is one of my favorite albums and Paul Dano is one of my favorite actors. Watching him create the album was something else. However, I’m not just being biased- the acting all around is great and the story of Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter is one that should be heard. It was refreshing watching two actors portray the main character and it pays off big time. I believe this film will make my top 10 list for the year and I think many others’ list. If you go to see any film this weekend I implore you to see this one, you won’t regret that decision.