Film Review – Springsteen and I
Bruce Springsteen is a big deal for many people. His music has touched many, and he seems to be the kind of celebrity you wish all famous people could be. He appears to have no problem interacting with people at concerts and even on the street. As nice and as talented as he may be, hearing the same things about him for over an hour starts to become rather tedious. Springsteen and I is a fan video that Springsteen aficionados may love, but the scope is limited only to them.
The structure of the documentary is that many fans turned in videos of their own making, explaining their love of Springsteen, including their own concert videos. This approach does get across that die-hard fans really are being truthful about how much Bruce Springsteen means to them, but, after a while, they start to blend together. It doesn’t help that the film gets really repetitive in the way it shows these segments: we get a personal story about a fan’s experience with Springsteen or his music, cut to a concert scene for awhile, then go to a group of three or four fans who list the three words that represent Springsteen for them, and the cycle begins anew.
The stories are pleasant enough, giving a sense that Springsteen is very good to his fans. We get shots of one fan who has been given upgraded tickets, and another who held up a sign about having just been dumped and is invited on stage. Yet this is really all there is to these stories: nice moments, but nothing that makes them unique or shows why this is such a huge deal to the individuals, beyond knowing that they like Bruce. The best story is about one man who complains about his wife taking him to all these concerts, and that for him it was going to the new cities and being there for his wife that he cared about, but the concerts were too long. That was more interesting, because it was different from the other stories and was a nice break from the hero worship that makes up the film.
The individual concert scenes are all nice, with picture quality changes depending on what recording device the fan had available, and the music is always clear. It is nice seeing the fans get their moments with Springsteen. There is also an hour-long concert after the credits roll that has a more professional feeling of a Springsteen concert for those who want to experience him but never have. Yet, like the rest of the film, it does start to blend together with many of the other concert moments, which reduces the impact.
Part of this blending effect is due to the way these fans are solely focused on Springsteen; we never get a real sense about who they are as people or why their stories are important. It makes their love for Springsteen feel indistinct from any other musician’s fans. If you interviewed fans of Bob Dylan or Jimmy Hendrix, or even recent stars like Adele or Taylor Swift, you could have the same results. Any star who has touched people at a huge level could generate stories like this, and while the details would be somewhat different, the feelings of the fans wouldn’t be. Nothing feels special or exciting about these fans’ feelings for Bruce Springsteen over anyone else.
The stories don’t add up to more than showing that Bruce has created music that touches his fans, and if they meet him either at a concert or in person, that he is a very nice guy to be around. For those who love Bruce, this may be a great connection they can all share. While the love and devotion of these fans, including director Baillie Walsh, is clear and never feels false, for those of us who don’t have this strong reaction to Springsteen and his music, it is hard to see what we have to gravitate to. As one of those less devoted, the film was slow to get through.
Final Grade: D