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Beach Boy bio-pic: ‘Love and Mercy’

Paul Dano as young Brian Wilson plays guitar in a concert scene from the new Roadside Attractions movie, Love and Mercy, a bio-pic about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (Credit: River Road Entertainment)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #c0c0c0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.Com/embed/lioWzrpCtGQ?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}Have you ever dreamed of being a rock star or wished you were music legend? It is easy to think they lead charmed lives.  After all, the grass is always greener on the other side, right? The bio-pic about Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy, hit theaters this weekend and has me counting my blessings and remembering the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album is one of the most influential albums to come out of the 60s.  It is the rich fruit of an unspoken competition between the Beatles and the harmony-rich California band. Pet Sounds came as a response to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.  Beatles producer George Martin explained that “without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened… Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.”  Wilson and McCartney were born just two days apart in 1942 and call each other around that time to wish each other a happy birthday every year.

Love and Mercy pans back and forth between the mid 1960s part of Brian Wilson’s life when he was working on Pet Sounds in the studio and the 1980s when he was under the control of controversial psychologist Eugene Landy.  

As a songwriter and producer in my spare time, it is almost impossible for me to overstate how much of a genius I think Brian Wilson is.  His arrangements are astoundingly beautiful and complex while sounding familiar and accessible.  It is a significant temptation for me to covet his gifts.  Wilson though, has not had a charmed life.  His father was an abusive drunk who managed the band until they fired him after he went on a tirade during the recording of “Help me, Rhonda.” Wilson is mostly deaf in one of his ears from his father’s abuse.  Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown on an airplane in ’64 and subsequently has heard voices in his head.  

Despite Wilson’s incredible musical prowess, during the height of his career he did not know who he was.  Paul Dano expertly plays Brian Wilson showing the simultaneous genius and insecurity that Wilson possessed during the 60s. Veteran actor John Cusack portrays the older Wilson who was being over-medicated and held emotionally captive by Dr. Eugene Landy.  Elizabeth Banks gets my nomination for the best performance of the movie as she plays Melinda Ledbetter, Wilson’s love interest and now wife.  She helps him be free of Landy’s manipulative control.  

If you go see Love and Mercy, you’ll cheer for Wilson to break free of Landy’s control, and wonder why it seems so hard for him to walk away and just be free.  He must be coaxed out of the subjection of his malevolent master by someone who loves him.  He was reluctant—scared.  Upon reflection, I realized this is an accurate image for how I sometimes react towards Christ when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, calling me into the light and his loving embrace.  I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis said: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  

God is calling us away from the momentary comfort of sin.  Remember what he is calling us towards—heaven.