I settled on Love & Mercy, the Paul Dano/John Cusack movie about the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. That movie poster alone would make me want to watch it, but from the cast and the trailers, I had been wanting to see it for a while. It details his inner and outer struggles as a young man during the band's heyday, and after his dark, drug-and-alcohol-fueled, troubled spot.
It is a beautiful movie: the wardrobe, the sets, and the way they film Wilson's musical genius, as well as his mental breakdowns are all captivating. The editing between time periods keeps you interested, and establishes a good flow to understanding Wilson.
The acting is what really makes this movie worth watching. Paul Dano (of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood fame) plays him as a young man overwhelmed by the music. He has a very acute vision of his songs, and a youthful curiosity in trying new sounds, but cares very deeply for the opinions of those around him. John Cusack, who plays the later Brian, keeps you guessing at what he really is like. His relationships with Paul Giamatti's manipulative psychologist who convinces him he needs heavy medication to be normal, and Elizabeth Banks' beautiful and understanding love interest, who sees the tragic cage Brian is kept in, are wonderfully explored.
And you can't have a movie about the Beach Boys without including some of their music! The Pet Sounds sessions, along with all of Dano's studio scenes, are fascinating. Apparently most of them were unscripted, but he threw in some lines from the original tapes from the '60s. Another bit of trivia I read claimed that Dano and Cusack were encouraged not to communicate with each other while filming. They were supposed to give their interpretation of Wilson at their specific time and not worry about playing him in similar ways. What's amazing is that while they were separate performances, the two portrayals fit together perfectly.
This movie tells a story I had no idea even happened, and between the acting, music, and the look, it is definitely a story worth knowing.
(photos collected from resizing.flixster, images.popmatters, static.srcdn, telegraph.co.uk, blogs-images.forbes, christianitytoday, and cdn2-b.examiner)