At choir the other night, our choirmaster distributed ‘God Only Knows’, the Beach Boys song. I’ve always loved this song and its complexity is writ large in the myriad guitar chord changes shown on the sheet music. As often happens with songs we sing at choir, it’s been stuck in my head ever since, and was even more firmly cemented there after seeing the biopic of Brian Wilson in ‘Love and Mercy’. It’s still on at Cinema Nova (‘Last Days!) but probably won’t be for much longer.
Brian Wilson’s story is told in two intercut storylines, one from 1966 during the taping of Pet Sounds, and the other from the 1980s when Wilson is a heavily medicated shell of a man. The 1960s thread is shot in Super 16 film and has that saccharine look of American beach movies, while the 1980s vision is sharper and cleaner. Two different actors play Brian Wilson. Paul Dano, who plays the young Brian looks quite similar to the real man, but John Cusack playing 1980s Brian looks nothing like him. I must confess that I found it hard to suspend my awareness of the pasty, empty Brian Wilson that we see today when faced with an actor who looked almost Dustin Hoffman-esque. An excellent story though, that has you despising the bad buys (and realizing the dangers of power of legal and medical attorney) and cheering for the good guys who in this case are good women.
And just to keep ‘God Only Knows’ in YOUR head too, here’s the film clip. Having seen the movie, I’m more aware of the studio-engineered complexity of the orchestration which references the contribution of the backing session players, themselves featuring in the coming documentary The Wrecking Crew. I’m also more alert to the redundancy of the other Beach Boys in this film clip and particularly the resentful irrelevance of Mike Love in the right hand corner.