Paul Dano & John Cusack work together to deliver a spellbinding biopic about The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson by exploring how we form our personal identities. Also featuring the talented Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, and more! This is The Universal Theme with Keagen Fritz

Written by: Keagen Fritz – August 13th, 2020 11:38 pm pst

Still – Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy is an ambitious biopic about The Beach Boy’s virtuoso, Brain Wilson, that reminds us of the amount of effect those around us have on our psyche.  It demonstrates how who we choose to surround ourselves with shapes the personality we attribute to the world itself, which affects how we define and think of ourselves.

Still – Who do you surround yourself with?

Brian Wilson is one of the most influential musicians/songwriters in popular music. Yet, it seems he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for being a pioneer of the sonic experimentation of the ’60s.  So when I found out about this film, I rushed to watch it, just for a chance to learn more about the recording process of Pet Sounds— An album that many deem not only one of the first concept records but one of the greatest pop records of all time.  

Still – Brian working on the cello section of ‘Good Vibrations’

You wouldn’t have ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ if Brian Wilson hadn’t inspired The Beatles with ‘Pet Sounds.’  In fact, the two bands actually went back and forth with their albums during the mid-’60s, with each group inspiring the other to voyage further into uncharted sounds.  Wilson’s personal story, however, is it’s own strange trip that entails total obliteration of the self, and ultimately an inspiring salvation that can provide insight into how to live.    

Still – Are you interested in taking this trip? 

The film takes place in two different periods, the ’60s and the ’80s, as we follow Brian Wilson through two distinct eras of his life.  Paul Dano delivers an uncanny portrayal of Brian during the Beach Boys fever dream of Pet Sounds, Smile, and the beginnings of his mental spiral into oblivion.  While John Cusack takes over to give us a glimpse of how Wilson rebuilt himself despite being completely surrounded by deadly leeches disguised in human form.        

The two decades work in tandem to deliver the sensation of being taken for a ride alongside Brian as he navigates all the outside pressures looking to control and mold him to best fit their needs.  Being based on the true story of Mr. Wilson only furthers the film’s impacting message as we know this actually happened to the poor man.  His mental health was being dictated by the company he kept, both diagnosis and treatment.  He lived years of his life, believing he was a paranoid schizophrenic and fundamentally broken, which pushed him further from himself.  He took other’s opinions and thoughts and identified with them, which in turn made them true.

Still – Only we can approve of what we form our identity from

An extreme example, yes, as those around him were actively trying to take advantage of Wilson, but it still illuminates the effect others have on us.  Even when we pride ourselves on our ability to dictate our own lives, other’s thoughts still find ways of seeping in, stirring our brain water, and creating the mixture we pull from when interacting with ourselves.  This isn’t something we can move away from since it’s built into the impressionable mind.  Instead, we must accept this condition and work with it instead of against it to achieve an authentic existence. 

Still – Brian sorts through all the outside influences

The biggest thing we can do is be deliberately precise with who we surround ourselves with and continually reassess their role in our lives.  From there, it’s a matter of being mindful of the murky mixture our brain concocts from all the various springs.  If we remember how our pool of thoughts are formed, we can pick and choose which we decide to identify with and act on.   Brian Wilson was only able to form his own version of self once he stopped accepting what was given to him.  Take a cue from Mr. Wilson and don’t be the flood of thoughts and instead be the warden who owns the thoughts.  

Still – Be deliberate with your identity

You can stream Love & Mercy on Hulu.      

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About The Author:

Keagen Fritz is a screenwriting and production major at California State University Fullerton with growing industry experience looking to make a living off the written word.  He currently writes for AfterBuzz TV and has his own series “The Universal Truth” where he dives into art to pull out messages that could relate to anyone.    

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