The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
The most heartening surprise about director Bill Pohlad’s “Love and Mercy” is also to my mind a pretty improbable one. That is, that it’s such a good and at times better than good movie. The rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of genius musician Brian Wilson, a life story that disproves Fitzgerald’s adage about there being no second acts in America in what seems like the most perverse way imaginable, looks on paper to be too sprawling, too chaotic, to be distilled into a coherent, never mind compelling, cinematic narrative of conventional length.
But longtime producer Pohlad (“Brokeback Mountain,” “12 Years A Slave”), working from a daring script by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner, and using two first-rate actors to play Wilson at two turning points in his life, lavishes his material with love, attention to detail, and empathetic imagination. The result is a story that’s hair-raisingly watchable and frequently moving, regardless of what you believe you might already know of Wilson’s life.
The movie shuttles back and forth between two distinct periods. In the mid ‘60s, Paul Dano’s Wilson is the baby-faced musical genius of the Beach Boys who’s burning out on the road life. He’s got this amazing music in his head, and he manages to get quite a bit of it out, despite the resentful sniping of his abusive ex-manager father, the hostility of at least one bandmate who doesn’t get why Brian isn’t writing more hits, and an increasingly fragile psychic state that is not helped by an exposure to LSD. Cusack plays the Wilson of the late '80s, supposedly brought back from a complete psychotic break by psychological miracle worker Dr. Eugene Landy, who became such a part of Wilson’s life that he presumed to make himself a partner in the creation of Wilson’s music. John Cusack’s Wilson wanders desultorily into a Cadillac dealership (although we soon see he’s got a bodyguard trailing him, and a mini-entourage trailing the bodyguard), charms attractive young salesperson Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), who at first has no idea who the sweetly eccentric fellow is. After telling her he wants the car in which they’ve stolen a few precious moments removed from the outside world, he scrawls on her business card and leaves it on the steering wheel of the car. The words he’s written are “Lonely/Frightened/Scared.”
Landy, played with terrifying intensity and smarm by Paul Giamatti, has by this point in time morphed from someone in service of Wilson to a malignant Svengali. His monstrous manipulations are bad enough in isolation, but when intercut with scenes of the younger Wilson shrinking at the disapprobation of the father—who beat him to deafness in one ear, but from whom Brian still craves approval—or the cousin/bandmate who hectors him over jokey song lyrics and musical direction, they are genuinely heart-rending and angering. The movie creates a rather effective suspense story: as Melinda gets closer and closer to Brian, under Landy’s paranoid gaze, one wonders just how much fortitude Mr. Wilson’s new love interest has, and if she has that fortitude, can she get what she needs to deliver Brian from what he describes as his “hell.” It gets pretty tense.
Meryl Streep and other awards recipients shared their thoughts on an America under Donald Trump during last night's G...
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
A look at highlights from the career of the great Peter Cushing.