Last time we were here, Paul was getting all his buttons pushed by controversial radio deejay Howard Stern in the underrated 1997 comedy/biopic Private Parts. In that first edition of this latest character study we became privy to Paul’s intense irascibility, and as crazy as he became he was on some level, empathetic due to the kinds of circus tricks Stern put him through. This time though let’s take a look at a performance that is far less defensible, if it’s defensible at all.
Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy
Role Type: Supporting
Plot Synopsis: In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Character Profile: Dr. Eugene Landy was a well-known therapist/psychotherapist renowned for his unorthodox round-the-clock therapy but better known for the many ethical violations associated with former patients, most notably Beach Boys’ vocalist Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson might have been his most high-profile case but he was also employed by other celebrities including Alice Cooper, Richard Harris, Rod Steiger, Maureen McCormick and Gig Young. Landy was initially hired in 1975 but due to outrageous out of pocket expenses he was relieved, only to be re-employed in 1983. His style of therapy was invasive to say the least. Treatment was more comparable to applying a vice grip around Wilson’s neck, as every aspect of Wilson’s life became highly controlled — Landy eventually gained control over his recordings, eventually becoming his executive producer, business manager and business adviser. Medication was regulated and even Wilson’s diet fell under the column of things his doctor ought to control. Landy’s relationship with Wilson was ended permanently in a restraining order. He would also have all professional licenses revoked by the state of California on the grounds of patient misconduct.
Why he’s the man: Paul Giamatti’s slime ball character is a perfect match for the actor’s skill set, particularly when dealing with a man who’s less a villain as he is a thoroughly unlikable human being. (There is a difference.) Though in this case his Eugene Landy comes damn close to becoming one, though never a caricature. In the role Giamatti exudes confidence as a professional who believes he is doing what’s right for the client while equally believing he can profit from his calculated methodology. It’s sickening stuff and Giamatti unsurprisingly delivers a nasty performance that makes it that much easier to root for our beloved Brian Wilson. One of the four pillars that made this film such a phenomenal and deeply emotional production.
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