To encapsulate my review, there is as much reality in LOVE & MERCY as there is in Brian’s so-called autobiography WOULDN’T IT BE NICE. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if the real story was told! For a film demonizing Dr. Eugene E Landy, I find it interesting that it is named after a song initially CO-CREDITED to the good doctor and patient Wilson. I did notice that in the film, the authorship of the tune is simply listed to Brian Wilson. What is THAT all about!!!!!
Anyway, you can take Landy out of the title, but as you will read, you can not take Mylandy out of the picture (pun intended).
In fact, a better title for the “bio-pic” should be FANTASY IS REALITY, another relatively lackluster latter day BW composition.
The only way this celluloid concoction may reflect reality is to cut out all the non-‘60s scenes and watch the remaining potpourri which just might make some sense. In fact, the BEST scenes in the entire production are those seemingly left on the cutting room floor, some of which were salvaged and featured as “Deleted Scenes” on the DVD version; the only “Special Features” worth watching. The remaining special features, like the overall film, are full of relative nobodies talking nonsense about something they know nothing about!
The flashback aspect of the production, lauded by those who dreamed it up, is in fact an excellent ploy to inject Melinda Ledbetter subconsciously into even more Beach Boys lore more so than what she has in fact already achieved.
To understand Brian Wilson, one must first accept the fact that he is and has always been a very selfish individual; more a defense mechanism than an attempt – consciously or subconsciously – to hurt people. From an early age, Brian Wilson began to develop a defense mechanism; first against his father and as his fame developed, the media in general. This “defense mechanism” was compounded by the use of drugs and a self-esteem always less than it should be. One classic scene in the film – deleted and included as an extra on the DVD – has Brian approaching Phil Spector and Spector nonchalantly dismissing him and his surf band! For whatever reason – read that as low self esteem, Brian has always bellowed Spector’s praises, conceding that he would never be as good as him; naively thinking this to be the case when in fact the opposite is true. All Phil Spector created was a “Wall Of Sound.” No matter how you view Brian Wilson’s music, he – and read that as HE aka Brian Wilson and NOT the Beach Boys – created a Sound For Summer; something that NEVER existed before Brian Wilson’s presence on the music scene. HIS musical and vocal creation will forever be with us – the vocal side being something that could have – and in my opinion should have – been created by an interchangeable group of session singers and presented by an ever-changing YOUTHFUL group of touring group members.
In one scene in LOVE & MERCY, the character of “Mike Love” even makes the point that the Beach Boys are NOT just Brian Wilson. In fact Mike, the Beach Boys are ONLY Brian Wilson. Even Nick Venet once noted – and could see – that the group itself was holding Brian back; slowing down his creativity. THAT is the reason Brian Wilson started using studio pros because he could tell them what he wanted and they could deliver instantly – not take ages to learn a part or try to change it into something more simple. Even LOVE A& MERCY points out Brian Wilson’s heavy dependence on studio musicians. They were on the same musical level (of a sort) as Brian Wilson and were there for their talent and expertise and not for the fact that they related or friends.
It is also true that Dr. Eugene Landy saved Brian Wilson’s life. He did get him out of bed and his weight down below that of four sacks of potatoes. However, the cost would prove formidable with the good doctor consuming every facet of Brian Wilson’s life – and wealth. This the film attempts to portray, but presents used car salesperson Melinda Ledbetter as the saviour! You do know that if this was not the case, and the true story told instead – the film itself would never have been made.
Known amongst the “inner circle” as Mylandy, Ms. Ledbetter aka Mrs. Brian Wilson #2, has simply taken the place of the good doctor in many ways and has guided Brian Wilson’s career ever since she assumed the position.
Even when confronted by an “insider” at a special preview of the film, when questioned on the accuracy of the film, Brian simply replied “It’s just a movie!”
And for all those wanting to get a glimpse of some of THE WILSON PROJECT. Forget it. Gary Usher is NOT represented in the film and is not mentioned at all. Here is an individual who “saved” the Beach Boys’ bacon in 1962 (by not giving their publishing to Capitol Records although Murry Wilson wanted to) and who tried to “salvage” Brian in 1986-87 and he is not even mentioned. Nonetheless, it WAS the audio diary kept by Usher that was one of the major pieces of evidence that was responsible for the good doctor losing his license to practise; curtailing his insidious business.
It was during the 1986-87 period that Usher had accepted the unenviable task of trying to get Brian Wilson back into a creative zone and hours upon hours were spent in the studio in such an attempt; during which not a mention was ever made of Brian’s infatuation with Ms. Ledbetter. The session tapes (thanks to Usher keeping a small cassette player running the whole time the duo worked together) reveal no intimate tete-a-tetes about Brian and Melinda, although EVERY other aspect of Brian’s life is discussed in between constant phone calls from the good doctor checking up on Brian Wilson (and destroying any train of creative thought that may well have been developing).
The music of THE WILSON PROJECT period may be criticised – and for good reason, but it was NEVER about the music. It was simply about a friend trying to help a friend and then being more or less let down by him and others at every opportunity.
The film LOVE & MERCY presents Melinda Ledbetter as Brian’s saviour, but in fact she, like every one else, was simply a cog in Dr. Eugene Landy’s “Brian Wilson machine.”
Not surprisingly, Brian also does not refer to Ms. Ledbetter in his Landy-“sponsored” autobiography in which he admits he has severed contacted with Landy, a decision he nonetheless reveals “cost me my business partner, teacher, adviser, manager, protector, voice of sanity, collaborator and closest friend.” Right, Brian ………
The Landy influence lingers as Brian then innocently concedes that “Where have they been for the past five years,” a reference to his brothers, ex-wife and daughters. Earth to Brian … It was LANDY stopping them contacting you. Wake up!
At least in LOVE & MERCY (I still have trouble writing that title), this sort of retro rubbish is kept to a minimum, but the bovine fertiliser is ever present. For example, Brian swimming from a boat to shore! Come on now … It’s a nice love story, but so is SLEEPING BEAUTY and we all know that is a fairytale! Nonetheless, someone’s boat did come in!
After all is said and written down, what did you expect? The truth? This is Hollywood and this is a story about someone with a good grasp of someone else’s …….
I must apologise for the lateness of this “review.” Upon the American release of the film, I was informed by those more in the know that the film was not worth the celluloid (or whatever) it was printed on. Therefore, I was not prepared to fork out $25 to see the film on the big screen, nor order the US version of the DVD which would have cost me in excess of $40. As a consequence, I waited until the film was released on DVD in Australia at the end of October 2015. However, I still had to part with $24.98 … 24 more dollars than it is worth in my opinion. The “Deleted Scenes” are at least worth 98 cents.
And, by the way, the actors are much better looking than the real people involved, thankfully!
Stephen J. McParland
“The Correct Perspective”