On 'Love & Mercy': The disappearance of living legends
The media business is an odd business, where we race to herald our greatest entertainers with prose and galleries and listicles as soon as (and, sometimes, only after) they've died.
Wire services prepare actors, musicians and other creative peoples’ obituaries months, years, and even decades before they’re deceased.
Especially when creators are dormant -- they retire, they don't pursue gigs, they can't get gigs – the column inches and other platforms celebrating their contributions to film, TV, comedy or movies, too, appear inactive.
Similarly, filmmaking sometimes follows the same graphic arc of interest and ability to portray the achievements of great artists. For every biopic made while a creative’s alive -- “American Splendor,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter, ”“What’s Love Got To Do With It” -- there seems to be twice as many made after death, like “Walk the Line,” “The Aviator,” “Capote,” “Vie En Rose,” and “Behind the Candlabra.” That’s not ignoring the difficulties of telling those artists stories while they’re alive, but even in death, estates haven’t proven this retrospective artform to be any easier: consider the long-finagled movie projects for Freddie Mercury and Jimi Hendrix.
At one time, Brian Wilson was all but dead. His beautiful “SMiLE” album in proverbial crates in the attic, his mental health destroyed by drugs, addiction and debilitating mental illness, abused and cordoned off by his sham psychiatrist. The Beach Boys and “Pet Sounds” was already a memory, one that didn’t have the internet to build out “Top 10 Reasons…” lists and obits in the back-end yet.
“Love & Mercy” is the rare film to wonderfully capture the specific time of life and metaphorical death and a rebirth of Wilson, now 72, a musician so rare that it’d be in no way an exaggeration to call him a living legend.
From my point of view, it is a gentle thrill and with great gratitude I’m afforded the equally rare opportunity to applaud the man, the music, the living history and a film, the stars of which who helped to tell the story.