If you thought “Yesterday,” “Rocketman,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” were all the movies we’d get based on classic rock, you were wrong.
Here comes “Blinded By The Light,” in which Javed, a young Pakistani/British man, finds his unhappy life changed for the better when a friend turns him on to the music of Bruce Springsteen. The movie is based on a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor (nicknamed Javed) called “Greetings From Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock ’n’ Roll” (Bury Park is the neighborhood in Luton, England, where he grew up, not a typo for Springsteen’s Asbury Park).
Made by Gurinder Chadha, who also directed “Bend It Like Beckham” in 2002, “BBTL” follows much the same formula: strict immigrant parents, life as an outsider, sister getting married, and a teen with an obsession. In “Bend It,” that was soccer. Here, it’s The Boss.
In a high school world of kids whose musical and fashion tastes run to the Pet Shop Boys and Debbie Gibson, Javed — a kid with poetry in his heart and on dozens of pieces of paper in his bedroom — is astounded the first time he hears Springsteen’s lyrics. As he listens, Chadha scrolls them across the screen, and on two occasions, expands them into full-fledged musical set pieces, complete with dancing in the streets. All of that seemed unnecessary to me, but I suppose just watching a guy walk down the street listening to music on his Sony Walkman wouldn’t make the most compelling footage.
Adding even more drama to Javed’s life are the economic consequences of his father losing his job when there are no others to be found, his mother forced to clean clothes for others in her home all day and half the night, and white supremacists marching through the town demanding “Pakis Go Home!” Fortunately, Javed bonds with the guy who gave him his first Springsteen tapes, has a relationship with a girl at school, and has his eyes opened to the world by a man six time zones away.
I’m a longtime Springsteen fan, so I enjoyed hearing a dozen or so of his songs and seeing the impact they had on someone first discovering them. The cast is all terrific and it’s nice to see the real Javed in the credits. Aside from those musical set pieces, I enjoyed “Blinded By The Light” enough to give it a 7 out of 10.