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TV Reviews : 'Wilson': Ebb, Flow of a Beach Boy's Life

August 26, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN

If Brian Wilson's life were a song, it would be "In My Room," with its frightened melancholy, not "Fun Fun Fun." That's been well-chronicled over the years in books, interviews and histories recounting Wilson's uneasy life and struggles to keep his head above the surf, metaphorically speaking.

So what new can we expect from "Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," an affectionate film portrait of the Beach Boy at middle age that premieres Sunday on the Disney Channel? Plenty, it turns out--not shocking revelations, though such episodes as brutal beatings by his father are recounted. Rather, here are the subtle shadings of a figure who for the past 35 years has been lauded and laughed at in equal measure.

The first-time direction by Don Was, a Grammy-winning musician and producer who has worked with Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones and many others, uses rich black and white, literally and figuratively, to look into the shadows and contrasts of Wilson's life. The mix of Wilson's own anecdotes with those of his family, colleagues and such star acolytes as Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt, David Crosby and Graham Nash, support the common image of him as a musical savant, a childlike genius.

But it's presented with a personal touch that goes a long way toward explaining the drive that has kept Wilson going all these years, through mental illness and familial infighting as much as through his creative triumphs. The latter are recapped with footage of recording sessions featuring Wilson reinterpreting some of his classic songs.

Most revealing and affecting, aside from comments from Wilson himself, are matter-of-fact observations from his mother, Audrey, and Beach Boy brother Carl, who sound as if they themselves are just finally coming to grips with what life has been like for their kin.

The moment that symbolically ties it all together: the three of them sitting around a piano and harmonizing for the first time since Eisenhower was in the White House. It's a touchingly unguarded scene that marks this bittersweet film.

* "Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Disney Channel.

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