Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Date with LOVE & MERCY

The Beach Boys.  This story starts with a couple and a car.  It ends with a couple and a car.  I love a story with an arc like that.  Saturday night, I had a date.  We went to see LOVE & MERCY, a new film that covers the emotionally crippling personal life survived by the brilliant singer and songwriter, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.  The Beach Boys were a hugely successful 1960s pop/rock music group.  They were also a family group.  The Beach Boys were brothers in working class Southern California who got more acceptance from music critics apparently than they did from their controlling and physically abusive father.  Brian, in his adult years, was under the domineering round-the-clock care of a therapist who was basically a con man manipulating Wilson's life and over-medicating him.  Medically speaking, Wilson's therapist was as caring and helpful as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Paul Dano hits the right note as the young Brian Wilson.  The Beach Boys had hit records, concert appearances, did guest shots on TV shows and got praise from rival pop group, The Beatles.  With his moon face, there's always a look of darkness approaching in Dano's eyes as he plays young Brian, a pop star singing of the joys teens can have in the Southern California surf and sun.
The middle-aged and commercially successful Brian Wilson lives in Malibu.  The older Wilson is played by John Cusack with a look in his eyes of one who's enveloped in darkness.  He has a big fabulous house that gives the visual impression that life is sunny for that member of The Beach Boys.  But the house looks sterile.  There's no real warmth or life in it.  He looks trapped in a painted David Hockney image of California living.
With flashbacks taking us back to Brian's youth and blossoming music genius, we see how he became so vulnerable.  He travelled a path he knew.  He needs to take a new path.  He needs help gaining control of his own life and art.  I loved Elizabeth Banks as the person who helps bring The Beach Boy out of the darkness.  She plays Melinda, the auto salesperson who shows Wilson a new vehicle, not knowing he's famous.
Melinda is attentive, polite, engaging and knowledgeable. We know she must also be focused, independent and hard-working.  Let's face it -- when we see auto dealerships in films and TV commercials, the salespeople on the floor doing the selling are predominantly male.  Melinda broke through the boys' club.  Her eyes are different than Brian's.  They beam warmth, wit and compassion.  What I loved most about Melinda in Love & Mercy was that she had a personal code of "When you see something, say something."  As she dates Brian Wilson, she notices the creepy attachment of his therapist.  He's practically skin grated onto the musician.  He's present on dates.  He monitors what and when Brian eats.  He's cut Brian off from communicating with relatives.
The always-good Paul Giamatti plays the bully therapist who controls Brian Wilson.
Artists can be a bit loopy and eccentric.  In the entertainment industry -- especially in Southern California, the home of Hollywood -- folks can roll it with and endure that loopy behavior if the artist is not hurting anyone and if they know that the artist's product will be critically and commercially acclaimed.  Such was the case with studio musicians waiting while young Brian oddly felt a recording room for the presence of "good vibrations."  If they weren't present. he'd cancel the recording session.  Love & Mercy shows us that Brian was an odd man out in his youth and it also shows us the evolution of his innovations in rock/pop music.  He was a gifted artist who knew how to communicate the unique and novel music ideas in his head to the musicians and get pleasing results on record. But his behavior while under the care of this manipulative therapist was cause for concern.  The soul of the artist was being raped.  Here's a trailer.
In April, I posted a review of an indie drama called Little Accidents.  Lisa Colangelo wrote and directed that story of a small rural town gripped by a mining disaster and a child's disappearance.  Elizabeth Banks really made an impression on me as an executive's wife.  His company is being blamed for lack of safety precautions in the mine.  I knew Banks from very funny work on sitcoms such as Scrubs, 30 Rock and Modern Family.  Her dramatic turn in Little Accidents was one to applaud enthusiastically.  Since then, she's directed a movie herself.  She took the music competition comedy sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, to a big box office score.  For Love & Mercy, she has another dramatic acting role -- and she nails it.  Doing comedy or drama or working behind the camera as a director, you can bank on Ms. Banks to deliver the goods.

Because half of the story happens in the 1960s music scene, this film may not grab the interest of young moviegoers, audience members who consider the 1980s to be ancient.  Also, dinosaurs rule the earth right now at the box office.  Jurassic World is overshadowing the other new releases. This is a smaller film, well-made and mature.  Serious issues are addressed in this biopic.  I wanted to know more about how Wilson got hooked up with that grifter shrink.  We don't know exactly how he wormed his way into the music star's life and home.  But, by the end, you will be grateful to women who do the right thing -- ordinary women who do something extraordinary by challenging intimidating men to help someone in trouble.  I'm sure Brian Wilson is grateful.  When I saw the movie, the audience looked like an AARP commercial.  However, Love & Mercy has four truly fine performances going for it.  Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks are worth watching even if you're too young to remember The Beach Boys.  Go see it for the excellent acting.

Yes, I did have a date last night.  Let me just say right off that, if you're over 40, online dating is a circle of Hell that Dante never wrote about.  Don't get me started.  In the last 20 years, I've been romantically interested in a few guys, but the feeling wasn't mutual.  Since 2000, I've been asked out twice.  The first time, a guy I knew called and wanted to get together, go out and do something special on the night of September 20th, 2008.  He stood me up.  I remember the date because it was my birthday and I had no other plans.  I've been a solo act for a long, long time.  I admit that it gets a little tough around the holidays.  From Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, everyone seems to be coupled up.  It's like being on Noah's Ark.  Folks do festive things two by two all around you.  Trying not to fall into a depression because of that is an emotional balancing act similar to walking a tightrope made of tinsel.  Come New Year's Eve, I watch couples kiss at the stroke of midnight and I wait till it's five minutes past.  Then, I can exhale.  The holiday season has reached its climax and will no longer underline the fact that I'm a single man.  And have been since my partner passed in June 1994.

But last night, I had a date.  A very cool fellow I met last week at a church benefit treated me to a movie, pizza, terrific conservation and a hug.  On the face of it, you wouldn't call ours a "sexy" date.  But he did make me feel special.  As we walked down 23rd Street in Manhattan after the movie and pizza, I looked at couples out on a Saturday night in June.  I smiled and thought to myself, "Wow.  For a few hours tonight, I'm half of a couple too."

What a great feeling.

1 comment:

  1. the film really strikes home. The music and performances capture the essence of Brian, a true genius.


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