“Blinded by the Light” pissed me off so much that I don’t want to listen to Bruce Springsteen ever again.
Yeah, I’m angry.
This monotonous, lazy movie is a textbook example of why you can’t simply pump a film full of beloved pop songs and rely on feel-good nostalgia rather than taking the time to craft a thoughtful screenplay to convey heartfelt emotion. It feels fake, inauthentic, unoriginal, and doesn’t seem to come from a place of sincerity. Perhaps it would’ve worked better as a fantasy.
Set in 1987, teenager Javed (a delightful Viveik Kalra) discovers Bruce Springsteen for the first time and his world is turned upside down. A lover of music and aspiring writer, Javed lives with his two sisters, hardworking mother (Meera Ganatra), and overbearing dad (Kulvinder Ghir). Yearning to escape his hometown and the strict rules of his traditional Pakistani household, the lyrics speak to him with an understanding that no one else seems to have. His 16th birthday wish is to “make loads of money, kiss a girl, and get out of this dump,” and The Boss may inspire him to do just that.
This film takes a sweet idea (that’s based on a true story) and proceeds to beat you over the head with it until you’ll cry out for it to stop. Director Gurinder Chadha treats audiences like they’re stupid, and the real kicker is that viewers willingly sit there and take it. Who falls for this crap? I love music and I love Springsteen, but the majority of my time in the theater was spent with constant eye rolls, face slaps, head shaking, and uncontrollable, inappropriate laughter.
This is coming from a person who loves all genres of music and absolutely understands how art can speak to a person on a much deeper level, as I am often inspired by paintings and prose and films and song. It’s a beautiful sentiment (that’s been done far, far better by others; check out any of John Carney’s films), but here it’s conveyed in the most cheesy way possible. I’ll give you one of the many examples: there’s a scene where Javed’s sister skips school to attend a daytime party so she can “be herself,” telling her brother “when I’m dancing, I block out the world.”
OH MY GOD, MAKE IT STOP!
I suppose I should be thankful that there are several scenes where characters actually speak in song lyrics. Springsteen’s music is great, but here it has magical superpowers that can help kids muster up the courage to stand up to racist bullies and controlling fathers. I’m sure this has happened to many and I’m not arguing against the true force of music to speak to people, but the clichés are hurled fast and furious, like rogue alien forces sent to exploit Earthlings into slopping this junk up with a silver spoon. Whatever overused trope you can imagine, it’s rolled out here. The politically savvy love interest. The authoritarian dad who just doesn’t understand. The supportive war veteran neighbor. The tears-rolling-down-cheeks big finale speech that gosh darn it, makes us all just get along!
Want to talk more about how dumb this movie is? There’s an extended scene of happy people running in slow motion through the streets, singing and dancing along to “Born to Run.” There are more that actually project the song lyrics on the screen, just in case you missed it. This movie is more obvious than the rat in “The Departed” or the feather floating in the wind in “Forrest Gump.”
It’s sad that the film chooses to gloss over the more interesting aspects regarding Pakistani culture and the constant tug of war between the older and younger generation. Much more could’ve been explored by way of and immigrant family’s journey in England and the threat of American culture seeping into traditional ways of life. Instead, the bulk of the movie is spent kissing Bruce Springsteen’s ass. There’s no real story or payoff either, just that some random fanboy finally met his idol.
The charming cast tries their best (admittedly, Kalra gives a delightful, breakout performance), but they are the only bright spots in this steaming pile of manipulative horseshit.