(And short review of Bruce Springsteen)
My inclination is to write 2 different reviews regarding "Blinded by the Light" with the first being about Bruce Springsteen and his music while the second would be about the movie and how the music is used. I will try to be brief, for me, with the Springsteen review first.
It has only been in the past few days that I have become familiar with Bruce Springsteen's music and life. Oh, I had heard of a couple of his hits but wouldn't seek him out to listen to him sing and/or perform. I knew about his record breaking concert "Springsteen On Broadway" and recently heard that the filmed version was being shown on Netflix. I, also, read he has directed a documentary and his latest album "Western Stars". I wasn't very much into the popular music of the 1970s when he made a name for himself as I was 'stuck' on music of the 1930s-1960s and music from Broadway and Hollywood but I do remember his Oscar winning "Streets of Philadelphia".
Thinking of going to see "Blinded by the Light" I decided to watch his concert and was moved, not so much by his singing voice and/or music but by his life story and I still feel the same today after seeing the movie which I feel I got into better than I would have otherwise.
"Blinded by the Light" is full of cliches, the kind I like in movies. The beginning of the movie didn't thrill me as I have enough problems hearing dialogue especially when spoken with an English accent and then adding a Pakistani accent to it! I don't know the exact point the first 'Hollywood' musical number was done but starting with that cliche I was hooked! Yes, there are a few of these elaborate musical numbers where students, parents and whoever is around burst into song though the first number "The Promised Land" is a solo that for whatever reason reminded me of Gene Kelley's "Singing in the Rain".
The story is based on the true story of a teenager who gets into a world of music and writing and if you as a teenager ever felt a connection that affected how you thought and acted you will understand what this movie is about and if you haven't experienced it this movie will show you how they do.
Yes, the cliches are here from the prejudice, not only the British against the Pakistani but the latter against Jews, the anger against immigrants, fathers coming to a new country to make a new life but not wanting his children to forget where the parents came from and getting upset if the children discover their own path, there is the first love, making and losing friends, sacrifices during a recession here taking place during Thatcher's era, children hiding things from their parents plus not to forget jokes about New Jersey! Our teenager meets a teacher who believes in him and, yes, it is corny, but it works just as the father and son scenes do.
Let's not have any doubt about the importance of a teenager discovering something to believe in as in this case the music will have him stand up to bullies, kiss a girl, spend much needed money to see Springsteen in a concert and even help him make a major decision.
Viveik Kalra, as the teenager Javed, Dean-Charles Chapman as his best friend Matt, (who I must admit I thought was a girl and put a crazy spin on the first 10-15 minutes of the movie!), Aaron Phagura as Roops as his new friend who introduces Javed to Bruce Springsteen, Nell Williams is Eliza, his soon to be girlfriend, maybe, Nikita Mehta as his sister Shazia who has a secret of her own that really surprises the audience while David Hayman, as his neighbor Mr. Evans and Haylay Atwell as the supportive teacher all perform admirably with Viveik Kalra a standout.
As Javed parent's Kulvinder Chir as the father and Meera Ganatra as the mother take two roles that have been done thousands of times in movies add poignancy, laughter and drama with the greatest of ease and have a lot to do with the tears the audience sheds.
"Blinded by the Light", as I said, is based on a true story and the screenplay was based on the book "Greetings from Bury Park" by Sarfraz Manzoor, who co-wrote the screenplay, and who the character Javed is based on, with Paul Mayeda and the director Gurinder Chadha. The latter keeps the film moving, the cliches and the unbelievable song and dance sequences believable.
I certainly have to give Bruce Springsteen credit for making "Blinded by the Light" a much more interesting picture than it would have been without his music or my not knowing about his background.