Long Promised Road
Ley Line Entertainment
By David Beard
Premiering today at the Tribeca Film Festival, the new Brent Wilson-directed Long Promised Road documentary brings into focus ‘Brian Wilson today.’
There’s something soothing about this film; it chronicles Brian’s incredible rise to fame with The Beach Boys and merges that with a beautiful story of a budding friendship, which ultimately is the heart of this journey.
Much of the film features Rolling Stone Magazine’s Jason Fine driving Brian around to all his old haunts and grabbing a bite or two along the way. For the interior car shots, a triple-camera-mounted shoot was used for the pair’s conversations as they drive from one location to another, while the exterior shots were done with multi-camera crews. The car was also wired for sound, so individual microphones on Brian and Jason weren’t needed.
Fine, the long-running Editor-In-Chief with Rolling Stone, began to write about Wilson in the 1990s. His calm and measured voice puts Brian at ease throughout, and to his credit, he understands the assignment: get Brian to talk. Being a great writer is one thing but getting Brian to talk is another. Especially when he’s on camera, but throughout the narrative, Brian is very ‘present’ thanks to Jason’s engaging personality.
There are a lot of special moments when they revisit many of Brian’s old haunts, but when they stop to eat at the Beverly Glen Deli something beautiful happens. As they chat about Jack Rieley, the Radiant Radish, the Holland album, etc., Brian pauses and stares at the camera. His gaze and thoughts wander in their direction, but he quickly redirects his attention to Jason and brims with affability, and a soft resonate joy. It’s as if Brian figures if someone wants to film him hanging out and eating with Jason, he’ll let them.
The conversation continues with Carl Wilson coming into his own as a producer, and Dennis. Once Dennis is mentioned, Brian asks if Jason will play Pacific Ocean Blue for him when they return to his house.
Before leaving, Fine gets up and excuses himself from the table, and hands his credit card to Brian to pay for the meal. Then, Brent Wilson approaches Brian and tells him that he’ll ‘take care of it.’ Jason returns, and Brian tells him the good news. “We scored!” says Fine, and Wilson replies, “I scored a friend” (pointing at Jason)! He continues, “I haven’t had a friend to talk to in three years.” Jason responds with, “Really?” “Really, my life is so simple … and modest. No sitting around and shooting-the-shit kind of thing,” Brian responds. After Jason tells Brian he’s ‘here for him,’ Brian says, “Vice versa.”
After this segment and exchange, I felt a much deeper appreciation and connection to Brian and the emptiness he may experience, but I was also pleasantly reminded of his sweetness. This type of emotional interaction between Brian is the heart of this film, and the cameras capture it beautifully. Jason is the friend that Brian needs – a buddy. It pays dividends with Fine’s actual love for Brian. For that reason, this film works.
Upon returning to Brian’s house Jason plays cuts from Pacific Ocean Blue for Brian. Brian – in what can only be described as immersion – closes his eyes and ‘grooves.’
As the stories and music continue to flow, the pair cruise and listen to Brian’s ‘by request’ “Long Promised Road.” Brian begins to sing, and you can see his feelings for Carl rise in his facial expression. There’s an emptiness in Brian’s eyes, and it’s touching. As the song plays over the car speakers Brian mentions Jack Rieley was the lyricist and that prompts Jason to tell Brian that Jack passed away (4-15-15). Wilson didn’t know and initially can’t believe it. Brian asks Jason if he’s sure. After a few exchanges, Wilson grows quiet and asks Fine to turn off the song. The pain of knowing that Jack is gone rises in Brian’s eyes and it’s heartbreaking. The moment is raw.
Brian working on new music comes into play and we get a peek inside the studio sessions; interviews with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Linda Perry, Don Was, Taylor Hawkins, Jakob Dylan, Jim James, Gustavo Dudamel, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Jonas are also included. Fittingly, the end credits read: IN MEMORY OF NICK WALUSKO (1960 – 2019). Perfect.
When the film concluded, I found myself wondering if Brian and Jason will continue to spend time together, go out to eat, and ‘shoot the shit,’ or will life get in the way of these buddies? It’s hard to say, but I was encouraged during the documentary’s Zoom press conference when I was speaking with the two Wilsons (at Brian’s house), and Fine (from his home). After having asked Jason a question, Brian jumped right into the conversation and asked him if he remembered going to (and shooting footage at) the Mulholland Grill. The next thing I knew Brent, Brian, and Jason were discussing the sharing of beers over dinner. It was great! I could tell Brian was ready to go out again with Jason.
All in all, Long Promised Road is a sweet invitation to get to know Brian Wilson. It’s sad at times … full of heart … Brian’s. This was not an easy assignment for anyone, but with Brian’s willingness, Jason’s assured kindness, and Brent’s directorial eye they pulled together something very sweet and unique. For me, Long Promised Road is more than a documentary; it’s a welcome view of the man we love.
©2021 David Beard/All Rights Reserved