The two cello players had been rapidly playing to the direction of Brian Wilson (played by Paul Dano). He had wanted them to evoke the sound of propellers. Each time, they got closer. But, after three hours, Brian’s brother Dennis (played by Kenny Wormald) had had enough. What was Brian trying to prove anyway? Moments later, we hear that iconic perfectly rendered propeller sound. There it is, for all eternity, an essential part of one of the greatest songs of the ’60s and of all time, “Good Vibrations,” and it was worth it! Not to confuse you, this is not a documentary, but, just for fun, here’s a studio session that is beautifully evoked in this film:
How could Brian Wilson have known it was going to be worth it? He had been getting resistance from all sides by his own family. It wasn’t just his backward-thinking brother, Dennis. It was also coming from his own father. The chasm between father and son had grown so large that Brian was forced to fire his dad (played by Bill Camp) from his role as manager. Murry Wilson wasn’t fazed by it and simply managed another band. It was all just business to him. But rigid adherence to the bottom line is anathema to creativity. What it requires is continuous leaps of faith. This is what Brian Wilson is all about and what this film is all about. Ah, here’s our trailer right below:
Paul Dano, as Brian Wilson, is profoundly good. I can only imagine how inspiring it was for him to be, in a sense, taking direction from Brian Wilson. The script is based on Wilson’s 1996 autobiography, “Wouldn’t it be Nice: My Own Story.” Well, Dano was certainly in good hands with the film’s director, Bill Pohlad (12 Years a Slave and The Tree of Life). As we come to find, Wilson was truly up against it and yet remained open to experimentation. Imagine those two cello players, pretty much out of their element and yet they were open to experimentation. And it would lead them to greatness: zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda…faster and faster…until they got it just right.
But there’s so much more. John Cusack is equally miraculous as Brian Wilson in later years. We see hints of a downward spiral as the young Wilson courts disaster but we can’t help but think the eccentricity is too important. By the time we fast forward to the ’80s, we see Cusack portray only a shell of a man. On one particularly good day, he manages to muster up enough strength to flirt with a Cadillac salesperson, Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks). It is in her eyes, that Brian Wilson sees a possible way back to a meaningful life.
And so begins a romance, a way back, and a way out. No sooner has Brian made contact with the outside world, than Dr. Eugene Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) has swooped down to control the situation. Giamatti does have a tendency to chew up the scenery but, in this case, his overacting seems to be spot on. It would take a larger-than-life character like Landy to try to hold back the likes of Brian Wilson. Cusack, who is usually quite good at striking a balance, gives us a portrayal of a man who genuinely, and quite humbly, feels in touch with great artistic ability.
There’s a wonderful scene during his courtship of Melinda where he plays a little tune for her. She says it’s beautiful. He responds that he wrote it for her. “And what happens to it now?” Melinda asks. Brian responds without even a hint of irony, “Nothing. It was just meant to be for that moment.” It is a scene like that one that just adds to the belief in a man who would have cello players repeat the same passage of music for over three hours.
Visit the official “Love & Mercy” website right here.