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Jason Manley

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On June 5th, 2020, LOVE & MERCY celebrated its 5th anniversary. This excellent article by Stephen Silver at Life Living Fearless chronicles just why and how the film was last decades best music biopic. I wanted to take this opportunity to write a few thoughts about how much I love this picture and what it means to me.

As a young child, growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, my parents were not unlike many nostalgic Silent Generation/Boomer parents with their love of early Beach Boys tunes. They were played in the car, on road trips, around the house on Sunday afternoons when "oldies" programs were featured on the radio. The music almost seemed like purely American traditional/lullabies that came from some time long before I was born. But in reality, the music I was hearing was only in many cases no more than 15 or 20 years old at that point.

When my adulthood approached in the mid 90s I watched the Don Was documentary I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES. At that point in my life, some of my favorite music was what might now be called "Indie Rock" or, then, "Alternative Rock"; bands like Pavement, Guided by Voices or Sonic Youth. So, imagine my surprise when I saw non other than Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) appeared in the Was documentary heaping praise on the music of Brian Wilson. At this point in my journey of music appreciation I had already gone through a Phil Spector phase (when the BACK TO MONO box set came out). But I had never really reassessed The Beach Boys. To mean, they were still the band from my childhood that sang about cars, girls and California.

It was precisely at upon viewing that documentary and my later reappraisal of the catalog that my nearly Twenty-Five year (as of this writing) adoration and love of Brian and BB music began. At the time, I worked in a CD shop and had access to all kinds of books and early iterations of music databases. I read up on PET SOUNDS and the history of Brian's work with musicians Spector favored, etc. I can remember exactly where I was when I first played that album. I was at work, I had gone to the rack and grabbed that CD, bought it, opened it and played it in the store on the main system. "Love at first listen" is one way I would describe the experience – almost religious, is another. Like most everyone that has their "moment" discovering (or rediscovering) the music of The Beach Boys and Brian you follow all avenues and wherever they take you for that same transcendental evocation of tapping into something bigger. Even the childhood lullabies like "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "Surfin' U.S.A." seem to take on some more grandiose meaning after being "born again".

There have been a number of great books about The Beach Boys and Brian. "The Nearest Faraway Place", "Catch a Wave" to name a couple. I wanted someone to take that same "serious" approach to Brian's story, but on film. When someone has such a 'cinematic' life, as Brian has had, it begs to be properly captured as a feature film. There have, of course, been TV movies; ABC's "The Beach Boys: An American Family" from 2000 and the nearly equally uninspired "Summer Dreams" from 1990. What I was pining for was something like Haskell Wexler's 1976 film BOUND FOR GLORY (Woody Guthrie), Milos Forman's 1984 film AMADEUS (Mozart) or Francois Girard's 1993 film THIRTY TWO SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD – in other words... ART.

So, in 2006, my interest was piqued when I read this article Surf's up for Wilson bio. And, like I would come to get used to over the coming few years, more "white puffs of smoke" would emanate from the "Wilson Chapel" only to go nowhere. Finally in 2011, this article appeared, giving renewed hope: Beach Boy Brian Wilson's story will come to the screen, courtesy of the screenwriter of 'I'm Not There'. Only this time, more stories followed about a completed screenplaycasting and finally, filming.

As the film finally premiered in 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival I was really tempted to try to find a way to go, but ultimately decided to wait for a general release in the U.S. I'm still grateful to those on this board that did attend TIFF in 2014 and shared their first hand accounts. The next 7-8 months were LONG. Finally, on June 5th, 2015... I was sitting in my seat at the very first showing at the AMC theater near me that Friday morning – something I almost never do – I took a day off from work to see a movie. Seeing Bill Pohlad's LOVE & MERCY, about one of my biggest heroes, was a solemn, emotional experience. The producers, screenwriter Oren Moverman and director Pohlad had managed to skillfully and artfully tell the story of Brian Wilson in a way that was both palatable for the masses but also crafty enough to be shown in art house theaters – that's a serious achievement for a two-hour motion picture. I did what I could only think to do... I went back to the counter out front and bought a ticket to see it again – IMMEDIATELY. While waiting for that 2nd showing I sat in the lobby and wrote (in the notes app of my iPhone) most of what I would later post on Amazon as my formal "review" (titled "The Life of Brian").

Over the course of its theatrical run I saw LOVE & MERCY a total of fourteen times. Sometimes I was focusing more on specific scenes, sometimes I was there to soak in the sumptuous Atticus Ross 'soundscapes'. But mainly, I wanted to take every opportunity I could to enjoy this magnificent film in the proper setting, while I still could. I think it's safe to say that I love this film deeply and equally – I love the music and the man.

Since we're at the 5th anniversary, I think it would be awesome if anyone would like to chime in with their own stories or anecdotes... favorite scenes or moments?

Stay safe, healthy... and Love & Mercy to you.

lovemercy_dano_wilson_cusack.jpg 

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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #2 
Probably have to watch it yet again.  I was awestruck with this film.  I did see it twice in the theater.  It was SOOOOO well done.  I thought that it gave a resurgence of younger audiences to Brian's concerts right after this. Indie types of people were watching it and getting it!  It certainly was an excellent Biopic.  It needed some Academy Award talk though. 

Favorite scenes are all of the studio scenes - where they nailed them - right off of the Pet Sounds Sessions. Of course the "can you swim? scene and deep end/shallow end of pool. 

Troubling scenes are ALL of the Landy scenes as Paul Giamatti nailed that performance. Have to say that Jake Abel was excellent in this as Mike. So te BIG three kind of evil forces did their jobs portraying Murry, Landy and yes, even Mike (don't eff with the formula). 

Of course Long Promised Road was bound to get its due this past March but something viral came to us at that time: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/brian-wilson-documentary-761952/

Nice write up and topic here, Jason Manley.  Thanks for starting. 

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Jason Manley

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Reply with quote  #3 
I'm looking forward to LONG PROMISED ROAD myself, Al. Hoping for a streaming release this year, I guess we'll have to just play wait and see.

Best,
Jason
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bonnie bella

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Reply with quote  #4 
I was emotional walking in, emotional walking out, and mesmerised in the middle. Still have a couple of photos of the Rialto entry to the theatre, all glitz and glamour, on my phone. It wasn't long after this I got to see Brian in concert on his Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary tour.





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Lisa G/TS

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Yep, I also saw it twice while it was in the theatre (one of those rare films that really deserved the huge screen and huge sound treatment). 

I have the Blu-Ray, while I haven't watched in a couple of years, I dusted it off yesterday and watched again. (With a humidex of 41 C/105.8 F outside, anything indoors with the A/C on sounded like a great plan. Who says Canada is always so cold?) 

Still somewhat surprised it only received 2 Golden Globe nominations - no wins - and not even 1 Oscar nomination in ANY category. Dano particularly was dialled in with the psychological and mental issues. As Al Forsyth mentioned, the 3 "baddies" of Murry, Mike Love and Landy were superbly portrayed, with Giamatti really "owning it" as the manipulative weasel. Those hypnotic mashups by Atticus Ross really enhanced the soundtrack. One thing that still amused me was Graham Rogers who, as Al Jardine, seems a bit of the Maggie Simpson in the bunch as the poor fella doesn't say a word or barely anything in any scenes with him! 

Once last puzzling thought...how is it that 5 years after portraying Melinda Ledbetter, the lovely and talented Elizabeth Banks is currently game show host on the "Press Your Luck" reboot?!?

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Jason Manley

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I would presume when you are a working actor you take anything that comes your way unless you are in a financial position to pick and choose. She has tried to get into directing recently. She's certainly a very versatile talent and I won't even mention how breathtakingly beautiful she is – whoops – just did. [cool]

Allow me to digress for a second... in the years since its release I've noted perhaps 10 or 12 still photos from the production that indicate a filmed scene that doesn't appear in the film (or in the supplemental material for home video release. Now, I realize that the general public doesn't really care about "deleted scenes"  but when you're crazy about a record or a film you want to know everything you can about it. I'm guilty as charged, in that case. It's a shame, I think, that some of moments won't ever get to be seen by the general public. [bawl]

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Al Forsyth

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Now, I realize that the general public doesn't really care about "deleted scenes"  but when you're crazy about a record or a film you want to know everything you can about it. I'm guilty as charged, in that case. It's a shame, I think, that some of moments won't ever get to be seen by the general public. [bawl</b><br>



Jason, did you purchase the DVD? Deleted scenes were included. I thought that I remembered five or six. There was one where Murry was going off but there was a camera or mic error. I LOVE deleted scenes but usually they are deleted for a reason.

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Lisa G/TS

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Jason, you're certainly not alone. I think pretty much all DVD's and Blu-Rays I own were purchased especially for all the extras - deleted scenes, "the making of" features, gag reel, anything and everything besides what you saw in the cinema...or TV for TV shows. 

There's a few deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray also. Think my fave was the outside scene where Brian lights up then quickly loses the ciggie because he spots Phil Spector. Brian excitedly walks along side him, all fanboy gushing away for a few strides when Phil stops, blows him off and walks away, leaving Brian still in a mild stupor of what just happened. Think I read just recently that scene was actually shown at a presentation or two at the TIFF before it was edited out. Too bad in a way, as it was somewhat realistic of how Wilson idolized him but Spector always seemed to look down his nose in return.

PS: I watched a repeat episode of "Press Your Luck" last nite just confirm something I thought I saw previously: yep, she's one of the Executive Producers on it. Wonder if she has a nostalgic interest in the show or just got bills to pay, haha. The big winner was Linda,  a teacher from Connecticut (do you know her, Al? Shoulder length black hair, raspy voice, wore a green shirt with black pants?) [biggrin] She came away with around $113 big ones plus a trip to Chicago to see 'da Bears play - which unfortunately is on hold with the COVID situation I reckon. 

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Jason Manley

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Forsyth


Jason, did you purchase the DVD? Deleted scenes were included. I thought that I remembered five or six. There was one where Murry was going off but there was a camera or mic error. I LOVE deleted scenes but usually they are deleted for a reason.


Hey Al, absolutely... pre-ordered the Blu-ray first day it was available on Amazon. There are four (4) deleted scenes on the Home Video release (DVD/BD/Digital).

I completely agree with your assessment about the scenes being deleted for a reason. In service of the whole project, I'm sure it's horrible to have to cut scenes you believe in on an individual basis but that don't serve the overall arc of the story you are trying to tell. I'm sure every director/editor goes through that. In the case of this film, it feels like a very tight 121 minutes; not a lot of "fat" left.

But, what I was referring to is additional full deleted scenes; not included in the Home Video release. Most of my observations are based on things I've read (interviews, features, etc.) Along with possibly having had a peak at a version of the pre-shooting script. 

These still photos are courtesy of LOVE & MERCY BD supplemental material (not actual deleted scenes) and other various stills I found on the web in 2015/2016.

Unidentified Scene #1 – Brian - Past (Paul Dano) is listening to "Be My Baby" over and over on his stereo in his room.

unidentified_ still_1.png 

Unidentified Scene #2 – Brian - Future (John Cusack) speaks with Landy (Paul Giamatti) about how to say goodnight to Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) after their first date.

unidentified_ still_2.png 

Unidentified Scene #3 – Brian - Future (Cusack) receives intravenous drugs from Landy (Giamatti) Landy. Director Bill Pohlad looking on behind Giamatti.

unidentified_ still_3.png 

Unidentified Scene #4 – Landy (Giamatti) and Brian - Future (Cusack) on the beach for a walk.

unidentified_ still_4.png 

Unidentified Scene #5 – Same as #4. A brief moment of this can be glimpsed during the "In My Room" flashback scene.

unidentified_ still_5.png 

Unidentified Scene #6 – Possible flashback scene to Landy (Giamatti) during the "Bed Years". I think a moment or two from this scene is used during the "In My Room" flashback near the end of the film.

unidentified_ still_6.png 

Unidentified Scene #7 – Melinda (Banks) possibly at a restaurant. She doesn't wear this dress anywhere in the finished film. 

unidentified_ still_7.png 

Unidentified Scene #8 – Van Dyke Parks (Max Schneider) and Brian - Past (Dano) write a song, possibly "Surf's Up" or "Heroes and Villains".

unidentified_ still_8.png 

Unidentified Scene #9 – Brian - Past (Dano) and Director Pohlad hanging out. Don't recognize the car being used in the film and I don't recall that exact combination of outfit for Brian - Past. Doesn't necessarily mean this portends a deleted scene but... possibly?

unidentified_ still_9.jpg 

Unidentified Scene #10 – Brian - Past (Dano) and Marilyn (Drake) watch TV in their den. If I'm not mistaken this is where Brian - Past sees news of the fire on TV and is paranoid that the "The Elements: Fire" caused the fire. 

unidentified_ still_10.jpg 

Unidentified Scene #11 – Audree Wilson (Joanna Going), Carl Wilson (Brett Davern), Marilyn (Drake) and Dennis Wilson (Kenny Wormald) are at the end of Brian's bed, presumably in the 60's given the decor and their attire. Possibly from a flashback? Unsure.

unidentified_ still_11.png 

Miscellaneous Scene # 1 – Very likely part of Unidentified Scene #1, with Brian - Past (Dano) listening to "Be My Baby" on his headphones while Marilyn (Drake) sleeps in the background.

Unident #1.jpg

I actually found this on the Japanese Facebook page in the summer of 2015. I'm like 99% positive it depicts the scene described in 'Unidentified Scene #1'.

Miscellaneous Scene # 2 – Completely unsure what this is from. It's a production still with nothing to orient you. 

Unident #2.jpg 

And believe it or not, there are a few others. I can't seem to find the still photographs I had saved in 2015/2016 from the web but they are somewhere.

If I find them, I'll post them as well with annotations.

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Jason Manley

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa G/TS
Jason, you're certainly not alone. I think pretty much all DVD's and Blu-Rays I own were purchased especially for all the extras - deleted scenes, "the making of" features, gag reel, anything and everything besides what you saw in the cinema...or TV for TV shows. 

There's a few deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray also. Think my fave was the outside scene where Brian lights up then quickly loses the ciggie because he spots Phil Spector. Brian excitedly walks along side him, all fanboy gushing away for a few strides when Phil stops, blows him off and walks away, leaving Brian still in a mild stupor of what just happened. Think I read just recently that scene was actually shown at a presentation or two at the TIFF before it was edited out. Too bad in a way, as it was somewhat realistic of how Wilson idolized him but Spector always seemed to look down his nose in return.


I do believe you are correct. I've read or heard something similar myself. I think it's very possible that the four (4) deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray/DVD are the full compliment of what was excised after the TIFF screening. That's totally my conjecture though.

I also think I read somewhere that the opening credits (during the TIFF screening) halted in the middle to let that scene with Murray in the studio play out. I think the finished product flows very well though and cannot imagine it going any other way at this point having only known it in its released form.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't just about pay big bucks to see all this stuff (additional scenes, etc,) though. 😉

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa G/TS
PS: I watched a repeat episode of "Press Your Luck" last nite just confirm something I thought I saw previously: yep, she's one of the Executive Producers on it. Wonder if she has a nostalgic interest in the show or just got bills to pay, haha. The big winner was Linda,  a teacher from Connecticut (do you know her, Al? Shoulder length black hair, raspy voice, wore a green shirt with black pants?) [biggrin] She came away with around $113 big ones plus a trip to Chicago to see 'da Bears play - which unfortunately is on hold with the COVID situation I reckon. 


Hopefully for her sake (and ours) there is football this fall. I can't imagine a fall in Ohio without my Buckeyes... but I may soon find out what that's like. [frown]
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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #11 
Wow on all of this - so there was quite a bit additional material that they were considering.  Wondering if these were story-board types of images as opposed to full acted scenes?  If they were scenes - this would be ALL the more impressive an undertaking by Bill Pohlad. 

Would have loved the Van Dyke part in the film, but surely this would draw some ire out of Mike. 

Lisa, probably quite a few Linda-teachers in CT.  Now you are going to have looking for this show! Thanks. [cool]

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Jason Manley

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Forsyth
Wow on all of this - so there was quite a bit additional material that they were considering.  Wondering if these were story-board types of images as opposed to full acted scenes?
 

My reaction at the time too. [wink] It's really hard to say I guess. If I had to guess I would almost say 50/50. Some for flashback type scenes, some fully fleshed out sequences. But I'm only guessing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Forsyth
If they were scenes - this would be ALL the more impressive an undertaking by Bill Pohlad. Would have loved the Van Dyke part in the film, but surely this would draw some ire out of Mike.


Hehe... indeed.

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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #13 
@Jason Manley

More looking back at this
https://consequenceofsound.net/2015/06/interview-director-bill-pohlad/
https://www.popmatters.com/love-mercy-and-the-dualities-of-brian-wilson-2495488687.html









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Jason Manley

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Reply with quote  #14 
Thanks, Al! 

Appreciate the look back. I was even moved tonight to buy a copy of ESQ featuring the cover story about the film.

Never really bought ESQ before so I'm looking forward to thumbing through it. I figure if they can grab me with features about the L&M, I'll be on board with purchasing other back issues. [cool]
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Lisa G/TS

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Reply with quote  #15 
Well, I might as well slightly derail the train of thought here (I have a tendency to do so, don't I?) 

"Press Your Luck" is usually on Sunday evenings on ABC as part of their "Summer Fun & Games" lineup. 

Here's a clip from one of the finalist's exciting rounds (how clever of Ms. Liz to find lipstick that coordinated with that dress perfectly!):




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