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Review: Blinded by the Light (Sundance)

Blinded by the Light (Sundance)
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PLOT: Javed (Viveik Kalra ), a Pakistani teen growing up in Thatcher-era Britain, has his life changed when he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen.

REVIEW: BLINDED BY THE LIGHT made headlines at this year’s Sundance when Warner Bros. and New Line acquired the film for a princely sum, something almost unheard of nowadays, as majors aren’t typically in the market for acquisitions at Sundance unless the movie has particular cross-over appeal. Sure enough, Gurinder Chadha’s BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is such a film, with it having the potential to break out in a big way. You could even hate Bruce Springsteen and still love this film, although then again - who could possibly hate The Boss???

Indeed, Springsteen’s on the receiving end of a reverential tribute to his work, being based on the life of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor. We see how Viveik Kalra’s Javed, Manzoor’s doppelganger, finds solace in Springsteen’s ode to the everyman. It doesn’t matter if he lives halfway across the world, the essential truth of The Boss’s words speaks to him, giving him the courage to take what’s his, namely his future, into his hands. It helps him get out from under the thumb of his oppressive father (Kulvinder Ghir ), who struggles with his own, bitter, crushed dreams.

While set in the 1980’s UK, it could just as easily be transported to modern-day America, with Javeed facing a lot of the same things many face every day when they walk out their door, be it an uncertain future, a depressed economy, and in certain cases, the specter of racism, with him in constant danger from the National Front skinheads. While that may sound grim, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is anything but. It’s a hugely joyous celebration of how art can enrich your life and give you reserves of courage you never thought you had.

In this case, it’s Springsteen, but it could just as easily be any other piece of pop culture that defined your coming of age. For some of us, it’s STAR WARS or STAR TREK or Marvel or James Bond or The Beatles, etc. Here, it’s The Boss, but the underlying passion is relatable for whatever it was that changed your life.

Happily, The Boss (of us all), in all his wisdom, granted Chadha extensive rights to his catalog, meaning at times it’s almost a jukebox musical, with a major number set to “Born to Run”, while other classics like “Promised Land”, “Thunder Road”, “Dancing in the Dark” and many others play almost in their entirety. Certainly, if this hits, Springsteen’s catalog is going to explode the way Queen’s did off of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, but that’s fine, because as Javed says, “The Boss has a lot to say”.

Chadha’s assembled a killer cast, mostly filled with newcomers, and like her previous BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, expect some future stars to emerge. Viveik Kalra is earnest and superb as Javed, with him being an absolutely charming, likable lead, while Ghir evokes tremendous sympathy as Javed’s dad - no small feat as the part might read as unsympathetic to those of us not steeped in the culture.

Aaron Phagura’s terrific too as the Sikh schoolfriend who exposes our hero to the boss, while Nell Williams is charming as Javed’s love interest. Even the most minor roles are fleshed out and given depth, including Dean-Charles Chapman as Javed’s white friend who’s obsessed with synth and doesn’t get Bruuuuuuce, while Rob Brydon has a hilarious cameo as his dad, pulling out and nailing a Springsteen impression of his own. Finally, there’s Hayley Atwell as Javed’s English teacher, who encourages him to pursue his dream of being a writer. Everyone, from the biggest roles to the smallest, is superb.

If this reads more like a love letter than a review, that’s fine, but it’s rare a movie touches me as thoroughly as this one. I get that some will think it’s too light or conventional, but to me, it’s one of the finest movies are made about true fandom, making it a must see for everyone. And you know what, even if you don’t like The Boss go see it anyways, although hopefully once this movie does a number on you you’ll come around.

Source: JoBlo.com

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