Tay’s review published on Letterboxd:
i was surprised my father hadn't heard of Blinded by the Light when its trailer first dropped—he's a big fan of recreationally watching new trailers, and he's a huge Boss fan. i mean... huge. i spent many years not listening to Springsteen because it was something my father loved, and it wasn't like, cool, you know, to like things your parents wanted you to like (see also: John Steinbeck, who i still do not like, and The Leftovers, which i deeply love now). i've since come around and spent a lot of time last year listening to Jungleland. i almost saw Springsteen on Broadway with my father, but prior obligations came up and we didn't make it out to New York together. i know that's one of those things i'm always going to regret, not having taken the opportunity to go to the city and see his favorite artist in such an intimate setting. we've since listened to the album recording on Spotify in the car together, which is close, but still not quite the same, i know.
so i was excited to show him this trailer. it felt like i was showing him something made just for him—my father, who grew up in the Philippines, has seen Springsteen enough times that i confuse when and where the concerts were. there's a deeply American history to Springsteen's music, but my father has unpacked enough of his songs for me to understand there's a greater unrest, a more universal grit to be mined. the trailer made us both laugh, and i thought even if i wasn't going to love it by its own merits, my father would, which would be enough for me.
but............ neither of us did love it. his lament is more articulate than mine, which is that he had hoped the movie would use Springsteen's music as a means for Javed to discover his own sense of political consciousness, which could then be translated across the Pakistani experience in Thatcher Britain, and maybe even further into the working class of American later in the film. the film doesn't do that, though; instead, the film sets down the scrappy crumbs of a genuinely engaging narrative, which only leads to a disappointedly mediocre movie.
my father hasn't been onboard with the recent musical revival that La La Land kicked into the mainstream, so the strange music video-esque interludes really did not set well with him. to me, they looked... tacky? half-developed? whatever time was spent playing Springsteen's most popular hits (could they only get the license for a handful of songs? why did i have to listen to "Born to Run" three times?) could've been spent developing those richer relationships between characters. instead we have a cast that feels bloated because each character is essentially serving the same role: his family, and specifically his father, want him to Make Money, and everyone else (who, save for one friend, are white) want him to Pursue his Artistic Dreams. his love interest has all the political rebellion Javed should've been given, but her chemistry with him is about as nonexistent as the rest of her character. he has two friends, who are so underdeveloped, they never interact despite their professed "small town" community [see: maybe the funniest scene of this is when, toward the end, Javed is talking to Friend 1, says goodbye, turns around, and Friend 2 has arrived. there is literally 0 interaction between the friends. they say nothing!! they do nothing!! together!!! why do they both exist?]
i think we were both so disappointed by this because the potential is all here—not just in Springsteen's songs, but in this particular perspective. i wish it were further fleshed out and explored more thoughtfully, instead of running itself in circles around the very tired tension between Success/Science/Law and Failure/Art/Writing.
anywho my father and i have resolved that, in ten years, when this is more or less forgotten, we WILL write our own Springsteen jukebox