Growing up, I was fond of the Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds.” It showed growth in Brian Wilson’s ability to texture and layer sounds into pop songs. That album has such classics as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B” and “God Only Knows.” That kind of growth is also why I preferred the songs from the Beatles’ later years. The Beatles even credited “Pet Sounds” for challenging them to make “Sgt. Pepper.”
I always wanted to know more about the Beach Boys. Most of the TV shows or movies on the Beach Boys span the 1960s into the 1970s. All point to “Good Vibrations” as the pinnacle of Beach Boys popularity in the ’60s. The breakdown of Brian during the failed 1966-67 “Smile” project is always shown. By the ’70s, the band was successful again. Brian had ended his few years of bed rest and was playing with the band in public. Everything was happy, right? But TV and film missed out on Brian’s struggles in the 1980s.
Now, “Love and Mercy” begins to fill the missing scenes. “Love and Mercy” splits into two parts: Brian’s pinnacle during “Pet Sounds” and collapse during “Smile” and Brian’s struggles and his relationships with his therapist and his future wife Melinda. Both storylines work so well together. But I preferred the ’80s story because it captured the idea of love so well.
Melinda enters Brian’s life in such an ordinary way. Yet she awakens the potential in Brian. He even crafted a music piece when he saw her. But at the same time, Brian feels trapped under the watch of Dr. Eugene Landy. The movie shows the therapist as a bully, overmedicating Brian to control him. Brian even said at the climax: “There’s no escape.”
Landy reminds me of sin. Sin walks along sinners, guides them and makes them feel good about any choice. But sin bullies and yells at the sinners whenever the thought of change enters. Forced to stay put, the sinners despair that reconciliation is impossible.
Toward the end of the movie, Melinda says that she has to walk away because she wants to show Brian that she isn’t like everyone else who wants to wants something from Brian. But at the same time, she didn’t want Brian stuck in the same destructive relationship with Dr. Landy. Melinda and Brian’s housekeeper work to help Brian break free of Landy. Landy shows his true weakness when he rants and curses at Melinda outside her locked office. But he slinks away when she confronts him at the doorway.
In a similar way, Jesus loves humanity so much that he dies to show that he never wants anything from us but rather gives himself totally to us. Jesus also doesn’t want us to remain our destructive relationships with sin. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are the wrenches that destroy the machinery of sin. Sin is left powerless when confronted by Jesus.
Melinda is surprised to find Brian waiting for her at the end of movie. So too must we be surprised to find that risen Jesus waiting for us, no matter what we have done. Divine mercy always awaits our acceptance because it’s the only source of our true happiness.