Ever since my mother dressed me up as Bruce Springsteen for Halloween at an early age, “The Boss” has been a part of my life. I never really got into his music until I saw the 2001 HBO concert film “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live in New York City.” Right then and there, at my friend’s house, is where the music truly hit me like a ton of bricks and started my fandom. I knew in that moment that I had to see Bruce and the E Street Band in person. When I finally got the chance on August 17, 2003 at Dodger Stadium during “The Rising” tour, I knew that show would be the first of many Bruce shows I would see in my life. Bruce opened the show with “The Promised Land” and I will never forget hearing the harmonica intro as I watched in awe once Bruce hit the stage. I must have seen Bruce and the E Street Band in concert over twelve times at least now. It is a huge four hour rocking party that just has to be experienced. It truly is the “church of rock and roll.”
In Gurinder Chadha’s latest film, “Blinded by the Light,” the main character and aspiring writer, Javed (played by Viveik Kalra) uses Bruce’s music to navigate through life in Britain during a time of racism against Pakistani people. Javed’s friend, Roops (played by Aaron Phagura) slides Javed two of Bruce’s albums, “Born in the USA” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” This act transforms Javed’s life and inspiring him to dream of a better life away from the hatred against him and his Pakistani family. “Blinded by the Light” is based on the true story of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who also co-wrote the script.
The story of “Blinded by the Light” took place in 1987 in a small town called Luton. The movie totally nailed the look of the 80s, from the Walkmans to the “Flock of Seagulls” hairdo that was very popular at the time. To the best of my recollection, the nostalgia was on point and it felt authentic to me, even though I was 4 at the time. The movie does get into politics dealing with Margaret Thatcher and the “NF.” Being that it was in Britain and I was so young, I do not remember any of the 80s politics, but I do recall the music of the time that was popular and the new age “synth” music that was growing in popularity against Springsteen’s music. Most kids were not listening to Springsteen at the time. They moved onto music that they felt connected with them a bit closer. If you’re a Springsteen fan, you would know that he writes music about his roots. Coming from a working class background Springsteen often talks about working in a factory or working on a ranch. In the movie, Springsteen’s music connects with Javed because he comes from a working class family as well.
“Blinded by the Light” did an excellent job of showing what was going on within Javed’s head because as some of Bruce’s tunes are playing throughout the movie, the poignant lyrics are displayed on the screen. It was a very cool style that added to the rocking experience.
Naturally, the soundtrack was great and nearly steals the show, even though I thought the title of the movie could have been “Promised Land” because “Promised Land” gets played way more than “Blinded by the Light” does in the film. The movie does have a decent variety of Bruce songs in the movie but it stays with the safe and familiar favorites. If you’re a Bruce fan heading into the film to see some deeper cuts, you might walk away a tad bit slighted. One surprising element of the film that caught me off guard were the various musical dance numbers. I just expected Bruce’s music to be played over the film. Surprisingly, there are a few times where Javed and the cast break out into song and it is coupled with a “Bollywood-esque” musical dance number. It was a bit jarring at first but by the end of the film, it does grow on you and you accept it because it is so well done.
Not to give anything away in the movie, but one of my favorite scenes in the film was when Javed took over the college radio station to play Bruce Springsteen’s music for all to hear! It put a huge smile on my face and it was kind of a “stick it to the man!” moment. Truth be told, it is a feel good movie from start to finish and I caught myself singing along to a majority of the songs. I, of course, knew all of them!
The whole cast did a phenomenal job of acting and they deliver a message that can relate to so many people around the world. Even though I have not heard of many actors in the film, except for maybe Hayley Atwell, I enjoyed all of their performances fully. The casting agents of the film, Susie Figgis and Kirsty Kinnear, did a wonderful job!
If you’re a Springsteen fan, this movie is a must! Even if you’re not a Springsteen fan, but like to see a character dream within a true story, this movie is for you as well! Chances are that you will find yourself falling in love with the music of “The Boss” and you just might find more meaning within the music you currently listen to on a daily basis!