Bruce Springsteen knows a thing or two about America. From a shotgun shack to the Superdome, he embodies the American Dream through cinematic lyrics that say more in one line than most musicians say, well, ever. Springsteen is a cold light beer at the end of a long day of manual labor. His music rings of patriotism and blue-collar frustration. Every dusty factory worker, every bartender in an empty bar and every Chevy-driving sap stuck in his hometown can relate.
Everything that ever needs to be said about his music has already been written—starting with the 1973 Rolling Stone cover sporting a baby-faced Springsteen smiling ear to ear over the headline, "Meet Bruce Springsteen, Rock's New Genius"—or has been yelled from the front row of an arena by an adoring overzealous fan, but every one of those 20,000 heads at his sold-out shows has a story of how he got there, how he fell in love with The Boss.
Springsteen and I is an attempt to compile a handful of those American musical romances. Inspired by Ridley Scott's Life in a Day, (Scott plays producer to this flick as well) director Baillie Walsh compiled tributary submissions from over 2,000 fans across the world for the ultimate collective filmmaking experience and the ultimate Springsteen fan club mailing list. It's moviemaking of the future—by the people and for the people—with footage filmed on everything from high-definition cameras to smartphones, plus never-before-seen performance footage spanning his career and a good chunk of footage from Hard Rock Calling Festival in London's Hyde Park, including duets with Sir Paul McCartney.
In the two hours, a square-jawed Scandinavian recalls a moment of friendship in the crowd during a moving rendition of "Blood Brothers." A guy eating a cheese-steak from Philadelphia shares footage from when he was pulled on stage dressed as Elvis to sing with Bruce. A street-side jam session at the height of Springsteen's fame in the mid-'80s is still a moment of glory for one lucky street musician. A British fan with a sign reading "I'll be your Courtney Cox" is pulled on stage during "Dancing in the Dark," and a sad sign reading "I just got dumped" prompts The Boss to pull the dumpee in for a genuine empathy hug, assuring "It'll be OK. It'll be alright." Springsteen is an American hero, un-breaking hearts, one fan-hug at a time.
Sure, his Jersey-crazed disciples get a little obsessive at times, like the woman who teaches her baby son to refer to Springsteen as Daddy. But that's not the point.
Even if you don't totally understand the unbridled admiration these fans have for Springsteen, the documentary reminds us of the common ground that The Boss has created through his legendary rock songs, bringing people together in their struggle for the American Dream. Moreover, it makes me want to give Bruce a big fat American bear hug and blast "Born to Run" on repeat.
Springsteen and I
Dir. Baillie Walsh
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX