Watched Apr 12, 2012
Mark Wilson’s review:
The Devil & Daniel Johnston attempts to portray the film's subject as an artistic genius who just happens to have a severe mental illness. The only problem is that Daniel Johnston is a mentally ill man who is both frail and childlike. The fact that he makes "art" is secondary.
Johnston's music is compared to The Beatles & Brian Wilson in the film. Let it be clear. Daniel Johnston is not a genius on the level of Brian Wilson or John Lennon. The folklore surrounding Johnston's life has grown to mythic proportions. The filmmakers want to paint Johnston as a tortured genius who is unappreciated. I don't buy it. His art and music is juvenile at the best of times. He's a man perpetually frozen in junior high. I will never appreciate Johnston as an artist. Seeing him perform in the film is unnerving and sad. Hearing him sing about Mountain Dew is not nearly as hilarious as one reviewer claimed it to be.
Mental illness is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. It seems to be the case with Johnston. This is a man, after all, who attempted to crash his father's plane while he was off his meds. Those around him don't seem to understand the severity of Johnston's illness until it's too late and they're forced to pick up the pieces.
I don't particularly like Daniel Johnston. I don't think it matters. His "art" is not meant for mass consumption (despite what the filmmakers want you to believe). Johnston's legacy will endure as that of a tortured genius. Is it warranted? The answer, of course, is no.