Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road – Tribeca 2021

Brian Wilson in Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road.

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, a reflective documentary on the life of the Beach Boys musician, makes its long-delayed world premiere.

Brent Wilson worked from roughly 70 hours of footage between Wilson and former Rolling Stone editor (now Director of Content Development) Jason Fine to pair this film down to just over an hour and a half. This doesn’t even begin to take the archive footage into account. When it comes to Wilson and his days with The Beach Boys, there’s no shortage of archive footage! Wilson and Fine have spoken with each other for a number of years and it’s their relationship that drives the film. Fine drives the Beach Boy around some old haunts–some of which did not make the cut. I learned during a press conference last Monday that he got an F in Music! How did that even happen?!?

They hit up places that mean something to Wilson. Among them are Paradise Cove, Malibu, Hollywood, and you certainly cannot go without Hawthorne. It’s certainly sad to see what has become of Wilson’s childhood home. All that’s left is a monument along the highway. When we aren’t watching them drive around or seeing interviews, the film weaves in footage of Wilson performing in concert. It goes without saying that watching Brian Wilson and late brother Carl Wilson singing during “G-d Only Knows” will never not be an emotional moment. It would be a perfect moment to end the film but they go on for a few minutes longer.

It’s just Wilson and Fine in a car for hours at a time. Wilson is largely providing the score to the film by picking the songs they play in the car. To have been a fly on the wall in that car! This is not your traditional documentary. You don’t have brightly-lit sets where the director probes the interviewee. No, this is just Wilson and Fine as they go through the old haunts and maybe eat a meal or two along the way. The two have a history and Wilson himself isn’t much on interviews.

Wilson presents a new song, “Right Where I Belong,” at the end of the film. which was co-written by Jim James. No doubt that it will probably be submitted as Best Original Song at the Oscars when the time comes. It’s a solid song and shows that the genius still has it as he nears his 80th year.

A number of musicians appear in the film to discuss Wilson. They wouldn’t be in the film if they didn’t love Wilson. I would have loved to have seen Paul McCartney discussing the rivalry but it is what it is. While Al Jardine is in the film, Mike Love isn’t. This certainly speaks to the relationship between the two Beach Boys founders. Wilson doesn’t touch on it at all in the film. But anyway, those appearing represent so many areas of the music scene including legends like Bruce Springsteen and Elton John. American and British, young and old. While the film runs just over 90 minutes, there are about a hundred hours of interviews with these musicians!

In total, there are 36 songs on the soundtrack. They range from unreleased songs to many hits recorded by The Beach Boys. We also hear some alternate takes and ultimately come to know why “Long Promised Road” was chosen.

I grew up on bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Combine this with the upcoming Paul McCartney documentary series and The Beatles: Get Back and there’s no shortage of 1960s nostalgia to grace the screen. Even though I’m a child of the 1980s, it’s their music that I frequently turn to. Yes, the film does briefly touch on the rivalry. Rubber Soul begot Pet Sounds which begot Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What a time for genius songwriters! Any studio would be doing themselves a real disservice if they didn’t try and buy this film.

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road isn’t a traditional documentary and that’s what makes this film a truly moving piece of art.

DIRECTOR: Brent Wilson
SCREENWRITERS: Brent Wilson & Jason Fine
FEATURING: Brian Wilson, Jason Fine, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Nick Jonas, Jim James, Linda Perry, Gustavo Dudamel, Jakob Dylan, Steven Page, Taylor Hawkins, Al Jardine, Bob Gaudio, Don Was, Blondie Chaplin, Stephen Kalinich, Andy Paley

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road holds its world premiere during the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in the 2020 Official Selection: Features program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.