"Bright Lights Big City" (1988)

Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: James Bridges
Written By: James Bridges, Jay McInerney
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment

Based on Jay McInerney’s novel, Jamie Conway (Michael J. Fox) moves from Kansas to New York City to work at a magazine. However, a number of things are making him miserable: He would rather be a writer, his wife (Phoebe Cates) has left him and his mother (Dianne Wiest) has recently died. So, he takes to partying with his aberrant friend Tad (Kiefer Sutherland), abusing alcohol and cocaine. However, Jaimie finds himself depending more and more on drinking and drugs…

Ey-yey-yey… I haven’t read the book it was based on, so I can only vouch for the movie here! I don’t know what I was expecting but…I don’t know if what I watched was it. It took me a while to get into it properly. I guess…to sum it up in a nutshell the film was a story about grieving over a recent loss, or the build-up of several older and un-dealt with ones over time; a story about self-discovery of sorts; and of course the more obvious, a story about the despairing and brutal consequences of cocaine and alcohol addiction.

There’s a lot of heavy enough scenes. Quite a few involving him drunk, sad and/or snorting cocaine. – FYI, the white stuff we see Jaimie snorting was actually powered milk, in case anyone who’d seen the film was curious! There was one moment when blood started pouring from his nose because of it, I think. That was pretty gross. A lot of the scenes are quite surreal. We are never in his POV, but they are shot in such a way so we feel the languid haziness that he feels on a daily basis. Actually, the film reminded me a lot of 1995 film “The Basket Ball Diaries” with Leonardo DiCaprio, although slightly more innocent in ways if that’s possible?

Michael J Fox is a talented man. This is a very different type of role to what I always associate with him. While there could be no fault with his role here, I think I prefer his more light-hearted roles. But he’s one of those actors who could take on any genre and do it with flying colours, while also making it look so effortless. 

His character, Jaimie, is struggling with so many emotional traumas like his divorce and his mother’s passing. His method of dealing with them is his downfall. He’s confused and lost and trying to figure it all out but can’t seem to confront of the pain he feels. Of course, his friend Tad (Kiefer Suntherland) doesn’t help matters as he’s just, however unwittingly, leading him further down the spiral of self-destruction. I don’t think he’s a very good friend and I didn’t like him as a character at all. That being said, I didn’t like Jaimie as a character either, but Michael J Fox plays him so endearingly, it doesn’t matter, you’d go along him and care about his wellbeing anyway! (Much like the way he played Alex on the TV show Family Ties actually!) 

There is one scene where he has this drunken monologue. Acting drunk is something that can go either way. Either it's well done or its' just laughable. He pulled it off so well, making it one of the more memorable scenes from the film, and proving Michael J Fox could pull off any role he wanted to try his hand at.  

My favourite scenes were the ones with Vicki. I think these were when Jaimie was most down to earth and in the land of the lucid shall we say. There’s a moment when they are talking outside the steps of a residential building after a date, and we can just see their silhouettes as they talk and eventually kiss. I really liked this shot. It stood out to me while I was watching. I was hoping Tracy Pollan would be in the film more than she was. They make a good pair (evidently both on and off screen!), even in the TV show Family Ties (which is one of my favourite shows), I always really like the episodes they’re in together very much. I haven’t seen Tracy Pollan in many of her roles, but the ones I have seen, she’s a lovely actress.

There was one dream-like scene that involved Jaimie walking into this room with a pregnant lady in a coma in hospital. I don’t know if it was a dream of his or if it was actually happening, I was a bit confused. But he could see the baby. It was the weirdest scene I’ve ever seen. I laughed. I don’t know if it was the desired reaction to laugh, but I did so out loud. The baby was so ugly, if not creepy. Do you know what it reminded me of? A cross between some sort of alien with its big bulging eyes, and that horcrux thing at the end of the final Harry Potter film when Harry meets Dumbledore King Cross Station. I think it was Michael J Fox’s voice was coming from the baby because it's a metaphor: Jaimie is essentially spending his days in a comatose stupor. The baby is a comatose baby. Will he survive? Will Jamie survive? It links back to this event throughout the film when it continuously shows news paper article headings about the comatose mother and the baby still alive in her. It's very clever. But that scene was still the weirdest thing… 

There was a huge build up to the moment Jaimie would meet his wife again. Throughout the film he was imagining this, what he would say, how it would happen, what she would say, him finally getting an explanation for his marriage's so sudden demise. There was a scene at a runway when he finally finds her, (She's a model you see) and he sees her but she doesn't see him and he ends up shouting up at her in a failed attempt to get her attention but ends up being dragged out of the building. I found it quite sad actually. Finally, the scene towards the latter half of the film when he eventually does come face to face with her is so well played out. This is the big moment - the one both us as the audience, and Jaimie have been anticipating, and all she has to say for herself is "How's it going?". She acts as if he's someone she barely knows. Jaimie's reaction is one of unease, shock and hysterical laughter. This is one of the scenes, in the film, as well as the drunken monologue, that prove Michael J Fox's talents. 

The scene where he sits with his dying mother is also quite tough to watch. She's screaming in pain and he's very helpless. It's really sad. 

After every section I guess you’d call them, it would type on the screen “Tuesday: Should have called in sick” or Monday…[this and that]. I liked this aspect to it, I thought it was cool. It tied in with the fact that he was a writer, as well as being a nice option to show time pass. 

His boss at the magazine company he worked for is another character that sticks out in my mind. She was a quite a sour client. I would not like to get on the wrong side of her. That actress plays Charlotte’s Mother-In-Law, Bunny, in Sex And The City. It was a similar role to that I thought.

I really liked the soundtrack though amidst all of this decadence. It’s a very 80s movie at the end of the day. I liked the music a lot. It was composed by Rob Mounsey, Donald Fegan and Prince. If you enjoy Tangerine Dream then I recommend giving it a listen! 

I like Jaimie's arc in this film. He falls into this depravity but seems to come out the other side with a clearer view of the people who are actually good for him. There is hope for him. The film is left very ambiguous in many ways, but there are also clues dropped that might hint at where he's going to go next. Some people would like a more solid ending, but I like this one, I thought it suited the tone of the film.

Something I found interesting to learn was in the book Jaimie's character is not called Jaimie, he has no name. He is simply referred to as "You", implying that the readers are Jaimie's character going through the motions. I haven't read a book like that before so if I ever come across it, I'd like to. 

Would I recommend this film? Yes and no. Yes, if you’re a Michael J Fox fan. For a general watch, maybe/maybe not… I think it’s a very good movie but it’s pretty heavy right the way through. It’s a tough one to call. It’s a matter of opinion.