Blinded By the Light: Review by @Kush_Hayes
Gurinder Chadha, the director of the Critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing Bend it Like Beckham from 2003 brings us the third movie of 2019 based or influenced on a modern rock artists catalog, Blinded By the Light. Based on life of Bruce Springsteen fanatic and Pakistani British writer Sarfraz Manzoor and taking a magnifying glass to this little town of Lufton England in 1987 including lots of things as an American, I am oblivious to even being a thing, if not now, especially back then. (To be fair, I was only 9 and not up on my International News in 1987).
As mentioned this story is (loosely) based on the events of Manzoors life and we meet his avatar, a naive, timid 16 year old Javed. Javed is going through the basic motions of life a 16 year old does, he goes to school, he is depended on by his family to do more than most 16 year olds ever do and while he is socially awkward, he is a writer and quietly hopes for a better life and maybe even attending University. Javeds father is very controlling and while he works 16 hour days to support his family, he also makes sure to collect every bit of cash the rest of the family earns from their own jobs.
Viveik Lakra plays Javed (Jay-Ved), and he’s incredibly likable in his role. I dont know how much Bruce Springsteen he is actually familiar with before taking this role, but you feel that the actor is appreciating the discovery of the artists talent as much as the character he is portraying. While Javed never gets into any physical encounters within this movie, he is constantly on the losing end of life until The Boss comes into his life, and while he doesn’t get it all at once, he does develop strength, courage, integrity, pride, and even love over the course of our story. And youre definitely rooting for him the entire time. But the year of 1987 is such a year of self discovery that hes not just learning about Bruce, but hes also learning about his own Pakistani culture and how everyone else is not only getting by, but how they cope, or blow off steam.
Javed has a very interesting set of supporting characters that come in and out of movie. His best friend, is usually on tour in his own band. His eventual girlfriend, when they dont have a fight, she is protesting some “cause”. His secondary best friend, who introduced Javed to Bruce, hes actually on screen a lot, but doesnt have anything of value to say past “Bruce is the Truth” lots of his role is reactions to something happening within the scene. - Thats not a bad thing, but it is what I observed.
When it comes to Javeds family, you kind of wish there was more to their roles. By the end of the movie you wish we had more to their characters as well. One of Javeds Sisters is getting married, its an arranged marriage, and while its usually a thing being prepared for or happening in the background, at no point do we get any info til afterward when the family expresses “Thankfully she likes her new husband.” “Yes! And he seems pleased with her as well!” - However its not lost on me that maybe Sarfraz Manzoor wasnt that close with his oldest sister.
And it needs to be noted that while most of the best scenes are between Javed and his father Malik, played by Kulvinder Ghir, it is also the scenes Ghir shares with Meera Ganatra who plays the mother Noor. The interactions between these two actors are riveting every time we get scenes with them, showing how it is they are working to give their children better lives than they had in the Pakistan. At one point Malik loses his job at the plant that hes held steady for 16 years and we see his breakdown as he tries to cope with trying to still be head of the household and also now being the only one NOT bringing in any money and when his pride breaks in front of Noor, you break with him putting it on the level of “That scene they show at The Award Ceremony”.
The Director and Writer of this movie are on the Super-Bruce fan level. I dont know what the name of the group but their fanaticism is on the level where they know every nook and cranny of Springsteens life, including streets birthed on and favorite sandwich shops within the greater New Jeresey area. And maybe thats why the movie feels so sincere. We watch scenes with Javed break down lyrics, to the point that when he’s reciting them to his friend Roops and theyre speaking a whole language that is only comprised of by Bruce Springsteen lyrics.
Much like the last two movies inspired by a musical catalog, I discover I know even less about Bruce Sprinstein than I already thought. I think movie discusses some important situations happening in England during that time and probably still today. And while some of the conflicts within this movie should feel universal, especially in todays troubled times, I feel like most of it will be lost on average American audiences. I appreciated how deep this movie went into Pakistani British Culture and didnt try to sugar-coat anything showing you that when things got ugly, they were ugly. But then I feel like this also clashes with the times there are just fun little musical numbers featuring the cast singing over Springsteen classics. This movie absolutely has a strange balance in tone.
I think Springsteen fans will like this. I think audiences that give it a chance will enjoy it. But I also think this will have replay value for only some people. Still…