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HomeFilmBrian Wilson: Long Promised Road Review

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road Review

Nothing says musical class like Nick Jonas rocking up in a documentary on Beach Boys mega legend Brian Wilson. There they were in matching striped shirts and plain undershirts, tightly fit, 1950s jeans and thankfully colour television was not around to show their sleek and silly uniform. It was a sign of the times and so too is Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, a route which documentarian Brent Wilson is determined to follow. Any relation? No. Does he speak with the man behind Pet Sounds and Smile? Yes. But Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is uncomfortable viewing of how the interviews are conducted, and how obsessives will never let their heroes rest even if there is nothing more to give. When they have expunged every ounce of strength, they have on topics already talked about, it is hard to see where else they can take it. 

How we as viewers, as fans, treat our idols needs to come under scrutiny. Be it Bob Dylan or Helen Sharman, those who are placed on pedestals by an adoring public for their achievements are thrown toward a high standard. For Wilson this is difficult, as is evidenced by the goading and coaxing of documentarian Brent Wilson. Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road beefs itself up with nothing new, all of this can be learned from books and interviews. Just here it is cobbled together with black and white footage, intercut with Elton John and Wilson himself, who retreads the usual routes of Rubber Soul challenge but is coaxed into these seemingly uncomfortable spots of recalling harder times. His mental health is no secret, Love and Mercy understood this and left well alone. It may have been a biopic but it got all of its facts together and threw them at Paul Dano and John Cusack. 

Sometimes the best way to learn about reality is through fiction, and in the case of Wilson, it is best to let him steer clear from digging up his muddled past. Brent Wilson does not glow in this, it would be awful to suggest so, but the line of questioning which comes from his work here is nothing new, nor is it anything particularly interesting. It does challenge Wilson though, for no good reason. Emotionally wrought and a little tense at times, it makes for some uncomfortable viewing of a great artist whose influence is known. Another documentary on The Beach Boys does not change this. Still images paired with greenlit soundtrack moments are no surprise. Wilson is no longer a person to many, he is an idol. A God.  

This shift in the way we perceive our favourites, our stars, as people who do not live and breathe as normal, as we do, is disturbing. Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road does little to prevent people from doing that. Instead, it actively encourages it as Bruce Springsteen and Elton John are drafted in to wax lyrical about the lyrics and themes of Pet Sounds. Anyone with enough time to read up on it can hold the same insights they do, they are just given a free pass to state those obvious segments for what they have achieved. Onto the pedestal they go. Farewell Yellow Brick Road and thanks for all the memories. Wilson is heaved out of his comfort zone to answer questions already responded to, by the man himself, all those years ago. Pet Sounds is the source. Jonas is not the solution.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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