|Warner Bros. Pictures|
Review: Blinded by the Light (dir. Gurinder Chadha, 2019)
I am someone who loves. Full stop. It is hard to be a "critic" when you are that way. I have trouble being snarky or controversial. I have to actually try hard to not be nice about the movies, books, and songs I watch, read, or listen to. I love them all, and, honestly, I have the luxury of avoiding those media that I feel I might not like, so I do. With movies, I seek out what's driving the conversation of the moment and pounce, and the ones that don't feel as well-received I avoid.
I say all this because I knew I would love Blinded by the Light while I watched the trailer for the first time at some point last summer. English teen, from a family of Pakistani immigrants, falls in love with the words (and music) of Bruce Springsteen? Movie was made for me, I thought. And it's confirmed. It's a gem.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is the kind of teenager I was...wanting to be cool, to get the girl, to fit in (my weight and self-esteem are what made me feel outside), and I found solace in song lyrics, wrote everything I wrote in adoration of the thing, and, unlike Javed, I never really found my way out of that until I was in my mid-20s (at least) and even now (at 35), I struggle to criticize even the books I don't like as such in my weekly discussion posts as part of the graduate Seminar in American Lit course I'm in this semester. It's because I love everything. I do see the good, where I don't see it other places, particularly in myself.
|Warner Bros. Pictures|
Javed is lost. He wants to be a writer and has kept a journal every year of his life for a decade, now heading into his 17th year, but he knows writing is not a possibility in his future. But magic happens. A new friend Roops (Aaron Phagura), jean jacket clad, gives him the keys to the kingdom of himself, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA and Darkness on the Edge of Town on cassette tape. And he goes for it anyway, following the English path in his 6th Form A-Levels, behind his father's back. He impresses his English professor (the always lovely Hailey Atwell). He starts succeeding. He is living a lie. We know the rest.
But when movies do familiar things well, when they add just a little extra, we get to see why we love these tropes so much all over again. The movie pulsates with Springsteen's lyrical genius. Director Gurinda Chadha (of Bend It Like Beckham fame) creates space for small music video-esque set pieces where words flash around screen, fly around Javed's head, and enter our consciousness. The cheesy sequence where Javed, Roops, and Javed's new girlfriend, the liberal activist Eliza (Nell Williams) dance through the streets of Luton to "Born to Run" is the sort of thing I didn't even realized I live for. I sang along, and might've even if I'd seen this film at a theater. It's just that good, and the movie is full of these breaks to the monotony of the routine plot.
In the end, this movie is about love. Full stop. It's about doing what you love, following your dreams, finding truth, and, actually, it's not about hero worship at all. It's about taking your heroes into your life and synthesizing their words (in this case) and using them as fuel to live a life for yourself that includes everyone in your life. After all, Springsteen constantly wrote about the struggles of life in a small town (what hooks us all in the first place, including Javed), but his words say more about the simple beauty of that life than they do in encouraging one to burn bridges and leave everything behind.
Screened at home on Blu-Ray from Redbox.