Hey guys! I’m new to WordPress, so to get a feel for the site and how it suits my hobbies of reviewing movies, my first reviews/posts will be ones that I’ve already written. In the spirit of the new year, I will be posting only my “Top 10” and “Bottom 5” movies of 2015 (or at least for the ones I wrote reviews for). Enjoy and let me know what everyone thinks. 🙂
Alright, get your wide eyes on, adjust your vocal tone to disbelief-mode, and stretch your fingers for the comments you will eventually write. All set? Good. *deep inhale, deep exhale* I, DANIEL J. PUYDA, HAVE NEVER LISTENED TO ANY “BEACH BOYS” MUSIC!!!
It’s true. But understand that, while my parents would certainly have tried to get me into the music of their generation, music was never my medium for artistic expression. That isn’t to say that I don’t listen to music, of course I do, but I am byproduct of the music of MY generation. I don’t listen to any particular genre, as my taste ranges from country to metal, 50’s swing and jazz to production music. So anything coming out of an era pre-90’s wasn’t something I listened to or appreciated until much later in life and even to this day, I still don’t quite make an effort to listen to more artists unless they strike a specific nerve with me. I wasn’t familiar with the band “the Four Seasons” but I still saw the movie JERSEY BOYS and enjoyed the movie well enough. The same went for this. I am not familiar with “the Beach Boys” but I am a fan of John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti, and enjoy the work that Paul Dano does when I see him in something, so there was a lot of reasons for me to see LOVE & MERCY.
That isn’t to say, however, that I wasn’t still a little apprehensive about the flick. Biopics tend to have similar reputations as adaptations of books, video games, comics, and all other manner of story-telling mediums, changing too much, making things up entirely, or downright being disrespectful of their chosen subject. In short, I didn’t want to see this movie unless it was faithful to the man they were making the movie about: Brian Wilson. I did a little research and discovered that the man himself did see the movie and said it was very faithful to his life. In fact, I read about a reaction that any time Paul Giamatti was on screen acting out the character he was portraying, Brian Wilson was incapable of distinguishing the difference between the actor and the real-world man, and mister Wilson was genuinely frightened of Giamatti. Wilson may have also expressed that the movie leaned too much into the darker times of his life, but he seemed to approve of movie as a whole. With his proverbial thumbs up, I was sold, and went to see the movie to give my two cents.
A biopic about the legendary songwriter/musician, Brian Wilson. Paul Dano as the younger Wilson as he is at his most creative and influential, but also showing signs of his mental deterioration. John Cusack plays the older Wilson as he is being “treated” by his psychologist, Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), and finding love in Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who wants to really help Brian in a healthy way that Landy is clearly incapable of doing.
This is a fantastic movie. Probably one of the best all year so far. This movie had me nearly in tears, I shit you not, multiple times throughout the film.
I would like to address certain opinions that have been circulating around regarding which Brian Wilson was portrayed better: Cusack’s or Dano’s. In my opinion, there is nothing to compare. Both men deliver their career-bests. Cusack and Dano play a different Brian Wilson at certain times in his life. The way I described it was: Brian Wilson is a fighter taking two different beatings. In his younger life, he’s not getting beat very hard, but he’s getting hit a lot, whereas in his older years, he’s not getting beat as much, but the hits are harder. In a sense, to say that Dano’s performance is better is a little unfair as he is given more material to work with. The audience is shown Brian’s method of creating sound, how well he works with his musicians, he’s a genius. Since Dano himself used to be in a band as well, he is given a chance to shine and really showcase his musical understanding. I even read that there were scenes where as he’s talking to the studio band, he’s not talking to them as an actor, he’s improvising and actually instructing them as a musician. Cusack doesn’t quite have the same material given, so all of the weight that is given to him leans heavily on his performance alone, which I find to be more intense, and at times, frightening. Both actors are fantastic and I don’t think it should be a competition, but rather how the two men do justice to a man’s hard life.
And holy fuck, Banks and Giamatti are on rolls here. Banks is currently also in PITCH PERFECT 2, which she also directed, and Giamatti is arguably the best part of SAN ANDREAS, and the two are absolutely wonderful in their roles here. Melinda is a compassionate and patient woman, clearly in love with Brian and wants nothing but the best for him, but shows that she is definitely not a woman to lay down with her thumb up her ass while Dr. Landy abuses him. Her disgust toward Dr. Landy, her pain and horror at the effect it has on Brian is perfectly conveyed through Banks’ eyes, making this my favorite performance I have ever seen her in. If it isn’t clear by now, Giamatti’s portrayal of Dr. Landy is… I don’t know if I have the words for it. The man is sadistic, barbaric, a grade-A jack-ass who is probably even crazier than Brian. While at first, Dr. Landy seems like a decent sort with Brian’s best interests at heart, you later grow just as disgusted with his face as Melinda is, and when he is handed an envelope and told that he’s been “served,” the expression on his face is fucking PRICELESS. I found myself and half my theatre audience laughing and clapping. An incredibly satisfying end to a monstrous man claiming to care about Brian.
As previously mentioned, Brian Wilson himself claimed that the movie leaned a little too much into the darker side of his life and not enough into the happier parts. I might agree with that, but I think that’s the purpose. It could be argued that he couldn’t have been too happy with his life so long as he was around Dr. Landy. In any case, it works out for the better because, without that focus on the harder times, it makes the resolution and his transition into a better life all the more satisfying in the end. But I might agree it would have been nice to explore his happiness during his older years some more, but I digress.
This is a character film and you truly feel the struggle and suffering that Brian goes through and every inch of this film radiates with emotion, making me personally leave the theatre with a smile on my face, happy for Brian Wilson that he is doing better now today than he ever was with Landy. Sure hope that’s not just a line of text added to give it a meaningless happy ending that was already satisfying as is, but I’m betting it’s true. If you’ve been unsure of how this movie is, the high praise it’s been getting is well earned.