DVD Review: BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: Special Edition

MGM Home Entertainment
Release date: September 2nd, 2008
MSRP: $14.98

Director: James Bridges
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland, Phoebe Cates, Swoosie Kurtz, Dianne Wiest

Jay McInerney’s 1984 book Bright Lights, Big City garnered considerable praise when it was originally released. Like many other titles of the time, it was about the drug-fueled have a good time lifestyle of the 80s. Unlike titles such as Less than Zero, McInerney managed to deliver a certain level of emotion and humor.

While Jay handled the screenplay himself, something went wrong on the way to the silver screen.

Much of the aforementioned warmth was lost in the translation to the big screen. As a result, I found myself not really caring about these characters.

The film went through a few directors, with some footage actually being scrapped. That kind of chaos could not have helped.

Jamie Conway (Michael J. Fox) does fact checking for a high profile magazine by day, while numbing his pain at night by partying it up in New York clubs and snorting massive amounts of cocaine.

While he certainly has reasons to be depressed (His wife recently dumped him, and his mother passed from cancer a year earlier), I did not feel enough of a connection to care what happened to him. If you don’t care about the characters, it is hard for a movie to resonate with you.

Having just slapped the film around, I have to say that those that disagree with me, will be rather pleased with the extras:

Two commentary tracks are included, McInerney offers up a track that is entertaining, but could have been better had Jay had somebody to interact with. Jay’s humor and intelligence does come through here, and that makes this track engaging.

The second track is very nice: Director of Photography Gordon Willis not only talks about the making of the film, but also gives us a lesion in filmmaking and cinematography. Even if one is not a fan of the film, this track is almost worth buying. As a big film buff, I found much of it quite fascinating.

Big City Lights clocks in a little under 15 minutes and talks about the culture of the 80s and how the source material captured it.

We are also treated to an interview with McInerney. While it is interesting, much of it repeats things from his commentary track.

Looking back at what I have written here, it certainly sounds harsher than I intended. Many will enjoy the film, but those that liked the book will likely feel it comes up short.

Order Bright Lights, Big City

Jeremy Lynch