Sunday, June 07, 2015
"Love and Mercy": two phases of the life of Beach Boys's Brian Wilson, and what Paul Dano had to do to himself for the role
“Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad, presents two narrative streams of the life of Brian Wilson, founder and leader of the Beach Boys in the 1960s. The most current streak shows John Cusack as a 40-something Brian, under “medical guardianship” in a coastal California home after his mental crashes, misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Actually, the real history is longer and more complicated than the film presents (Wiki). Paul Giamatti plays Dr. Eugene Landy, who watches him 24 hours, and interferes with his new girl friend Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), whom Brian meets when be buys a car from her at a dealership. Landy explains to her that Brian once weighed 300 pounds, and there is an odd scene on the beach over Brian's taking a bite out of a hamburger.
I can recall an odd moment early in my own private “treatment”, in 1962, when I actually asked the psychiatrist if he wanted to talk to any of my friends. No, he didn’t, but in the scenario of this film, he would have.
The earlier narrative stream shows the younger Brian (Paul Dano), working with other band members, as he starts to fall apart. For the role, the normally trim Dano (who does not look like Cusack anyway) had to gain about 30-40 pounds. His face looks bloated, his body feminized. There have been a few other cases of actos’ transforming their bods (sacrificially) for movie roles. Most notably, of course, was Jake Gyllenhaal, how lost weight and shaved his arms and chest for “Nightcrawler”, and kept shaved for the tattoos of “Southpaw”. Other “victims” (especially for tattooing) include Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling. Beware if you date an actor.
The official site is here (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions collaboration).
I saw the film at Regal Ballston Common before a fair audience. Yes, the music was wonderful. The stereo soundtrack was very effective in showing the younger Wilson’s “hearing” sounds and voices from different directions, but, again, the diagnosis was “overturned”. The name of the film is often spelled as "Love & Mercy".