"Love & Mercy," a film about the life, love, and musical genius of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, June 5.
The film stars actors Paul Dano and John Cusack as a younger and older Wilson, respectively. We follow Wilson's struggles with mental illness, addiction, and the legacy of alcoholism and physical abuse he survived in his family. Elizabeth Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, the former model who falls in love with Wilson and helps him escape from an abusive relationship with a controlling therapist, played by Paul Giamatti.
For Boing Boing, I spoke to John and Elizabeth (above) about Wilson's long-underappreciated musical genius, the healing power of love, and about living true to your creative imperative.
I also spoke to Paul Dano about how listening to Wilson's masterpieces "Pet Sounds" and "Smile" helped the actor inhabit the sensitive, vulnerable, genius mind of the younger Wilson, and tell the untold stories between the songs.
John Cusack is a longtime personal friend, and a friend of Boing Boing. I think he's one of the greatest living actors of our time, and he nails this role so hard. But I don't review my friends' films. So consider what I'm about to say not a review, but a heartfelt urging: go see this fucking amazing film.
Yes, this is a movie about Brian Wilson, one of the greatest popular musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, and seeing him and his wife last night at the premiere after watching the untold story of their love absolutely blew my mind. Yes, "Love & Mercy" is an homage to the long-misunderstood genius of an artist whose fearless exploration of new psychedelic frontiers challenged the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney to try and catch up with him, through The Beatles.
The film is about all of this great American–-Southern Californian! Angeleno!—-rock music and pop culture history. But it's about something else, too.
It's about that moment in a life full of struggle when you wake up and realize you really are free. The moment when you can begin to recover and reclaim what is truly yours: the freedom to live one's own life, free from abuse, free from untreated illness, free from the belief that we have to solve our pain alone, or escape from it. The only way out is through, and we are the only ones who can find our way through, to the truth of what our life is meant to be. But it sure is nice to have a hand to hold on to as we walk that road.
There's so much that's so amazing about this film. It includes some of the most vivid, effective, and terrifying portrayals of what it's like to experience a panic attack, a depressive episode, and violent physical abuse. The cinematography and direction are literally perfect.
The score by Atticus Ross is a reverential remix of individual strands of Wilson's musical thoughts. In the movie, sound plays such an important role in carrying the viewer through an invisible internal landscape. The cacaphony of echoing voices, the bursts of harmony, all merge to form the soundtrack of Wilson's thoughts. Here, sound helps us understand a mystery: maybe the neurological differences that led Wilson to various mental health disorder diagnoses are the very same differences that allow this amazing, magical music to come through his mind and into our world.
Our world is all the more beautiful because of the magic inside that mind.