A review of the movie “Blinded by the Light” featuring the music of Bruce Springsteen

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line
Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

—–BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen

How many of us loved those lyrics, lived those lyrics? We were fresh out of college and single, with a good job and fancy sport cars. We were living the days that belonged to a boss, but nights were ours to make it a world of our own. How were we to know, not until now, that the songs of Springsteen also fed the dreams of a young immigrant wanting to be someone in the latter days of Thatcher-ruled Britain?

Here’s a movie, “Blinded by the Light,” said to be the feel-good movie of 2019. To me it’s a bit like the “Mama Mia !” movie that focused on the works of the rock group ABBA. But this movie is so much better because there’s a story here with a message to take away.  And along with it, a remembrance of the Springsteen music that eased our transition from the Seventies’ depressive, oil-shortage days into Reagan’s “New Morning in America.”

The movie has spectacular opening and closing scenes from a hill thirty miles northwest of London. It overlooks Britain’s M1 Motorway (super highway) as it winds its way past the hero’s home in Luton, a worker’s town. They are the bookends for the slice of life story “Blinded By the Light,“ by British cinematographer and writer Gurinder Chadha, one of the three script writers. It’s a movie about a time in the life of another British author, her friend, Pakistani-born Sarfraz Manzoor’s youthful life, struggling as an immigrant in Britain.

His struggle for acceptance in a foreign land is made much easier by large doses of medicine from the archives of American rock star Bruce Springsteen.  He already had accomplished a decade’s work of hits by 1987, not to mention being the first celebrity, as a feature item, to be on the cover of two American news magazines in one week, the week of October 27, 1975.

Almost biographic, Chadha’s movie has changed her hero’s name (Sarfraz to Javet) and a few incidentals. She gives us a story about a Pakistani boy trying to find acceptance and a way to give life to the emotions written into his journal. Up against the prejudices of race and religion, he battles bullying and rejection. At home, he’s the typical rebelling teen who wants to study to be a writer, which is an anathema to a dad who is looking for more income for the immigrant family.

Along the way his best friend cajoles him into listening to a new type of music that speaks to anyone struggling against a life of low expectations and squashed dreams. It becomes his obsession, driving him on to achieve his dream as a writer, and along the way he becomes one of Springsteen’s best fans, seeing him in concert over 150 times.

How to rate the movie? Much better than typical rags-to-riches story because of the message and the Springsteen music. It’s rated PG-13, a bit of over caution, probably because of the minimal bullying, violence and gang behavior. There is romance, but no nudity and no explicit sexuality. Bruce Springsteen fans will love the music. It really is a feel-good movie for 2019. Go see it.

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