The Beach Boys – The Definitive Look at America’s Band

The Beach Boys

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Frank Marshall, the well-known producer, and frequent Spielberg collaborator, has quietly been directing some of the best music documentaries to hit streaming platforms in recent years. His filmography includes “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story,” and “Just Call Out My Name,” a documentary on Carole King and James Taylor.

These films showcase Marshall’s talent for capturing the stories behind some of America’s greatest musical achievements. His latest project for Disney+, co-directed with Thom Zimny, tackles the story of the Beach Boys in the aptly titled documentary “The Beach Boys.”

The Beach Boys have been referred to for decades as America’s band, a moniker that originated in the tabloids of the 60s and remains a fitting description of their musical achievements and enduring influence on the industry. The documentary not only acknowledges but emphasizes this fact, primarily through interviews with industry insiders, contemporaries, and a new generation of musicians they’ve inspired.

Co-directors Marshall and Zimny, after extensive research, interviewed a wide range of talent, many of whom proudly cite the Beach Boys’ sound and style as influences. These include Janelle Monáe, Ryan Tedder, and Lindsey Buckingham, among others. Their interviews reveal not just musical influences but also personal anecdotes about how the Beach Boys’ music changed their lives. In a particularly moving moment, Janelle Monáe recalls being brought to tears as a child upon first hearing “God Only Knows.”

These personal anecdotes, along with insights from contemporaries and industry experts, illuminate the band’s profound influence on American music, the American dream, and rock and roll as a whole. However, the heart of this Californian dream group’s story lies in the band members themselves, and their story is what drives this documentary film.

The film offers an honest look at the lives of all the Beach Boys, each during their time in the band. Each member’s story is told, and the sum of their parts and stories is what makes not only the band but the story of the Beach Boys. The story is one of family, both the family you are born into and the friends who become family along the way.

The band was formed by a group of brothers, their cousin, and a best friend. This is the original group that shot to fame, the kind of dream-like beginning that could only happen in sunny Southern California, and that dream is the story that is told here.

The Beach Boys’ early music, described as feel-good and fun, mirrored their public image when they burst onto the scene. However, as the documentary reveals, things weren’t always so idyllic for this iconic rock band. They evolved beyond their original persona, and the directors masterfully explore this evolution, both of the band and its individual members. The storytelling is so compelling that you realize sometimes fact is indeed stranger than fiction.

The Beach Boys

The documentary’s use of idyllic archive photos and footage of the band in their early days as teenagers, juxtaposed with images of them gracing album covers, performing on stage, and maturing into a more sophisticated sound and look, is perhaps its strongest storytelling element. The archive footage effectively conveys their evolution, with images sometimes speaking louder than words. It also allows the band to tell their own story in their own words, particularly the Wilson brothers, whose voices might otherwise be lost due to their passing or, in Brian Wilson’s case, his struggles with mental health.

The film honors all members of the band, including Mike Love, Al Jardine, and David Marks, whose interviews offer strong and honest perspectives on their contributions and the full Beach Boys story. Other documentaries may have explored the band’s music, culture, and influence, but none have gotten as personal as this one.

The moving interviews set this film apart. The love and respect between these friends, who have not only played together for over 60 years but also share a deep bond, is palpable. The film doesn’t shy away from the difficulties the band faced but explores them with a personal touch that feels almost healing for those involved. Every interview conveys not just an interest in telling the story but a deep love for the band members themselves.

Family members and friends also contribute to the storytelling, offering support and context for both personal and professional successes and failures. These are handled with such grace that you’ll not only appreciate the Beach Boys’ music and impact but also realize how much they’ve enriched our lives.

While no one band member outshines the others, the film rightfully acknowledges the musical genius of Brian Wilson, the group’s most iconic member. His major contributions are explored alongside the activities of the rest of the band during those times.

The documentary honors his talent while reminding us that everything any member did for the band, including Brian, was done with everyone else in mind. They worked together to make their band and their music work, even when they fell short. The personal and creative struggles they faced are all part of their story, a story worth telling. These legends endured a changing tide in culture and music, as well as in their personal lives, and they did it together to keep their music alive.

“The Beach Boys” reminds us of the profound impact the band has had on the American dream and how much poorer our lives would be without them and their music. It is a testament to their enduring legacy.

The Beach Boys is now streaming on Disney+.

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