I”ve now seen Bruce Springsteen’s new movie Western Stars twice. Last Wednesday night I attended one of the advanced showings with Joy and on Saturday night I saw it with Joy and my daughters (and my daughter’s roommate’s boyfriend) in Grand Rapids. I’m not sure how to describe the genre of this movie. Producer Thomas Zimny called it part concert and part documentary. Springsteen plays through the entire “Western Stars” album from the top floor of a horse barn on his family farm. It is an incredible space. There is room for a small audience, a bar, a full band, and a 30-piece orchestra. I want one of these barns! 🙂
Following the performance of each song on the album the scene shifts to Joshua Tree National Park in California where Springsteen sets-up the next song through his trademark storytelling. In one interview he described these as short movies. Looking weathered from the sun and occasionally wearing a cowboy hat, Springsteen wonders around the desert leading a horse through the shrub or staring into the sunset. In some scenes he drives a blue El Camino along the park’s dusty roads. Many of them are integrated with old Springsteen family movies.
The desert provides the backdrop for Springsteen’s musings on family, roots, marriage (his relationship with Patti Scialfa is featured prominently), aging, depression, and his own journal of personal transformation. There is something deeply spiritual about this movie. Springsteen spent most of his earlier career running, but for the past three decades he has been on a journey home. In Western Stars he describes, in a way that goes deeper than even his memoir and Broadway show, his daily struggle to come to overcome the “destructive parts” of his character and his quest to live a life of integrity and honor.
This movie is not only entertaining, but it will feed your soul. It is a gift.