Wondering if you’ll like the Bruce Springsteen-heavy, Blinded By The Light? Find out in this Blinded By The Light movie review.
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The year leading up to Blinded By The Light’s release was filled with music movies. There was Bohemian Rhapsody, based on Queen’s Freddy Mercury in November 2018. Elton John-based Rocketman came out six months later in May 2019. And then Yesterday, which predominantly featured The Beatles’ music, was out a month later in June 2019.
So when Blinded By The Light, which features Bruce Springsteen’s music throughout, came out two months later, in August 2019, it found itself in a bit of bad timing.
You didn’t hear much about the movie and even though it made more than it cost to make (according to Wikipedia), it didn’t break $18 million at the box office (as a comparison, Bohemian Rhapsody made $903.7 million at the box office). And that’s a shame, honestly, because I think it’s a much better movie than timing or figures lead you to believe.
Blinded By The Light Movie Review
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Blinded By The Light is based, loosely, on journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s life and love of The Boss.
The movie focuses on Javid Khan (Viveik Kalra) a Pakistani 16-year-old living in the small town of Luten, England.
He has a British friend, Matt, who is in a band and who he writes depressing song lyrics for.
Because, well, his life is depressing.
It’s 1987 and Javid, his sisters, and their immigrant parents are being persecuted. He works a summer job and has to give all his wages to his dad. His dad won’t let him go to Matt’s parties.
Javid just wants to be a normal teenager, but, as his dad (and society, really) reminds him, he’s Pakistani, not British.
He uses poems and journaling as an outlet. It’s all he has.
But that changes at the start of the school year. He meets another Pakistani, Roops, who give him the prize possession of two Bruce Springsteen cassette tapes.
Javid is hesitant at first. He doesn’t think a 16-year-old Pakistani boy living in England could relate to the words of a (then) 38-year-old white man from New Jersey.
But he does.
Every lyric sticks to his soul.
“Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young / ‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run” – Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run
He becomes obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, living by his every word as if it was law. Which is good and bad. It gives him the encouragement to pursue his dream of writing. But it also gives him a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He pushes away his friend Matt, and he pushes away his own father. Anyone who doesn’t live and die by The Boss is beneath him.
A little of that is embellished, Sarfraz Manzoor — who has seen Bruce Springsteen in concert over 150 times — has said. The movie is loosely based on his life and his book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, but (he stresses) loosely.
There’s a part in the movie where Javid leaves his sisters wedding, gets Bruce Springsteen tickets with money he hid from his father, and his father tears them to pieces. In an interview, Sarfraz Manzoor said his dad was actually supportive of him going to see Bruce.
But you need a little movie drama.
So there’s a little drama within the story, which couldn’t have happened without a chance meeting.
Sarfraz Manzoor had written his book and was hoping to turn it into a movie. Director Gurinder Chadha thought it would be a great idea. A few years after the book was out, Gurinder Chadha was invited to the London premier of The Promise. She took Sarfraz Manzoor as her plus one.
They’re on the red carpet as Bruce Springsteen walks down it. He, of course, recognizes Sarfraz Manzoor. Kudos to those 150 concerts. He tells Sarfraz Manzoor that he read — and even better — liked his book.
So Sarfraz Manzoor is star struck and tries to mention the movie idea. But how do you do that when you idol read something you wrote and liked it? You can’t. Your brain and mouth don’t work simultaneously, and you stumble over your words.
Gurinder Chadha tries to step in, but she’s just as starstruck. She’s able to piece some words and a concept together. Bruce basically gives it his blessing and allows them to use any of his music that they need.
Which is amazing because without the music, the movie won’t make sense.
So Sarfraz Manzoor and Gurinder Chadha work diligently at getting a script together, then revise it until they get a copy they’re sure Bruce will like, and send it over. He loves it, and they get the okay to add 17 songs into the movie. Yes. Seventeen songs. Gurinder Chadha has said in an interview that it’s not a jukebox musical, but rather, the songs are part of the words of the script.
The movie is good. The songs don’t take away from the script, and although it does have sprinkles of the political atmosphere of the time in it, that doesn’t take away from the story.
But here’s why I like the movie so much.
Bruce Springsteen changed Sarfraz Manzoor’s life. His music changed it when Sarfraz Manzoor first listened to it. And The Boss became his hero.
Here’s the thing about heroes, though. People tell you not to meet your heroes because they’re probably gonna let you down.
Bruce, he never let Sarfraz down. He liked his book, he let him use his music, he stood up to the hero title.
And there’s a magic in that. It makes the movie that much more special.
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