Based on the life story of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light tells the story of young Pakistani teen Javeed, coming-of-age in Luton in Thatcher's UK. Javeed is struggling with his cultural identity. When a classmate introduces Javeed to the music of Bruce Springsteen his life is altered. He hears his own story mirrored in The Boss’s songs and it inspires him to become a writer.
Personally this movie should be perfect for me. My all time favourite artist is Bruce and I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age film. I caught the director, Gurinder Chadha's, first film Bend it like Beckham on TV last Christmas and wow does that film hold up. What an absolute gem of a film. It is hard to believe this movie is from the same person. I think it's rare you can pinpoint a films success or failure to one aspect of production. But this is one of those rare examples. The script is absolutely appalling.
The acting is fine, the sets and the feel of 1980’s UK are excellent. It is a true story so I do not take issue with the actual story. But, my word, the script is truly woeful. It is like they fed the screen plays of all the other films of a similar genre (Bend it like Beckham, Billy Elliot, and Sing Street ) into a computer and got an AI to write this script. Everything seems so forced. It reminds of a Dan Brown novel where every character articulates exactly how he/she is feeling at all times in the most basic monosyllabic language out loud constantly.
It really suffers from comparisons to Bend it like Beckham and Billy Elliott. Blinded by the Light ticks all the boxes of these stories. It has got the inspirational teacher, the uptight father who does not see the point of art and wants him to get a regular job, the understanding quiet mother, the alternative girlfriend (who despite being clearly better read than our hero is happy to have Bruce's admittedly basic lyrics mansplained to her ) but none of the charm.
I was also a bit put off by the musical moments, rather than being an all out musical like Mamma Mia or Les Mis the characters sing along to their Walkmans it leaves the viewer in a kind of uncanny valley. We hear Bruce just as Javeed does, but the people in the film seem to hear him also even though it is being listened to on his headphones? It does not sound like a big issue but I found it very annoying. Either go all out and make a musical or at least put it on boombox or something.
One think it made me reminisce about was discovering a new artist and having an entire back catalogue to explore. I think Spotify and Apple Music has removed that amazing feeling. It was so cool to discover a new artist and realise he has a back catalogue you get to explore. I remember first hearing Bruce when I was 15 and raiding my parents' tapes and CDs to find more or heading to the discount bins in Zhivago and Red Light records to track down the missing albums. Same a few years later when I heard a Steely Dan song. A whole world would open up. The film does capture that well.
This film is headed for the discount bin all right, but I will not be picking it out.