The oft misquoted description of rock and roll, (it was actually used to describe country music), seems extremely appropriate for the music of Bruce Springsteen and the way in which it is used in the new film by Gurinder Chadha. Less the three chords, but more for the way in which the life of main character Javed has his life changed by listening to the truths that Springsteen puts to music.
"What does Bruce Springsteen know about the life of an Asian boy from Luton?" asks Javed upon being hand a couple of cassettes by new school friend Roops.
Well quite a lot it turns out, mainly because his music has always been for the strivers and dreamers.
You don't need to be a Springsteen fan, or from Luton, or of Asian descent to enjoy this film. In fact you have to be pretty hard of heart not to be swept along by the pure joy that permeates much of this film.
Whilst I don't share the assessment of my wife, as detailed in this exchange on the way home from seeing the film,
Me: "Did you enjoy the film?"
Wife: "It is the best film I've ever seen"
Me: "So you're a Bruce fan now?"
Wife: "I'm a big Bruce fan now"
I did enjoy it immensely, despite it not being "the best film I've ever seen".
The lead actors play their roles convincingly, the musical sequences work in the context of a teenager undergoing an epiphany and clearly the soundtrack is of the highest quality.
What the film did stir in me was extreme nostalgia, and not all of it good. Being only 6 months younger than the real "Javed", Sarfraz Manzoor, this period piece was a trip in the way back machine to a time of horrendous jumpers, Top Deck shandy, synth pop, the Sony Walkman, industrial strife, and an actual hurricane hitting the UK.
Whilst being almost the same age as Javed/Sarfraz, I'm white and grew up in an extremely white town and so whilst I was aware from the news of race issues, I had no day to day experience of them. Seeing it portrayed in the film was jarring, because it exposed the heartbreaking reality for the lives of many based purely on the colour of their skin.
The contrast between the story of a musical and life journey, with the brutal reality of racism didn't always work for me, but it took nothing away from my enjoyment of the film. Cliches may abound, but as I say above, the sheer joy that courses through most of the film steamrollers these doubts into submission.
The nerd in me couldn't help but notice a couple of small details. One is the blink and you'll miss him cameo of Sarfarz Manzoor himself; he's in the crowd during the break dancing sequence. Secondly when Javed is giving Eliza a ride on the handlebars of his bike, the speed bumps that they pass most definitely wouldn't have been there in 1987! Finally, and unfortunately, none of my school teachers looked like Hayley Atwell.
In summary then, go and see this film. Whilst it is a film with musical sequences rather than a musical, it shared a lot of the positive and feel-good nature of "Sunshine On Leith". If you enjoyed that, you'll enjoy this. If you are a Springsteen fan, then this a slam-dunk, home-run or whatever sporting metaphor you'd care to apply.
"Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man, and I believe in a promised land"