Few films have ever wanted to make me bury my head in my own pillow and leave the room from an anxiety-filled bout propulsed by what called only be called the idiot jitters. No offense to idiots, of course. It’s only a term to, um, diagnose a certain anxious feeling from watching a character in a movie act uncomfortably. Brian Wilson is by no means an actual idiot- the opposite, arguably. But, his story is visceral and surreal and makes for plenty of movie mining opportunities.

The filmmakers, in a hipsteristic break from normal narrative conventions, cast oddball indie superstar Paul Dano and “needs a better agent” John Cusack, who likes to match one meaty role with three Redbox-verified “hits.”

The move also boasts Paul Giamatti in his most nauseatingly vile performance since The Rhino. Giamatti is stellar, and the fact that his character is based on a very real person (accurately and credibly, in fact) poses a fascinating question about the evilest characters being rather real. It harkens to a comment from Stephen King, something along the lines of the most terrible evil is right in real life, not in any book.

This is coming from the guy who created a monster spider that shapeshifts into a clown. We are living a nightmare. So did Brian Wilson in fact, and the film chronicles certainly the darkest era of his life matched along his most painful creative creation in Pet Sounds. The movie does not work as well as it should, potentially because the narrative is its own shapeshifter. It’s an experiment in biopic-making, and it’s equal parts enthralling and challenging to dig into because Wilson, in both narratives, is a distant and closed-off oddity. Realistic, but challenging to dissect.

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