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Bruce Springsteen in Western Stars.Rob DeMartin/Warner Bros.

  • Western Stars
  • Directed by Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen
  • Starring Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa
  • Classification PG
  • 83 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

There’s a lot of bunkhouse philosophy to Bruce Springsteen’s earnestly Stetson concert documentary Western Stars. “The older you get, the heavier that baggage gets that you haven’t sorted through," Springsteen drawls, his voice tumbleweed-dry at age 70. “So you run, and I’ve done a lot of that kind of running.” If he was born to do it – he swore to us in the key of F-major that he was – it appears that Springsteen has stopped running now.

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Western Stars is the cinematic embellishment of Springsteen’s new album of the same name. (It’s a lovely record, an homage to the late-1960s country-pop style of Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell.) In his New Jersey ranch, Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, strum expensive acoustic guitars in front of whiskey-bar friends and an orchestral string section. The full album is performed, with a cover of Rhinestone Cowboy thrown in.

Between songs, Springsteen explains the lyrics and admits things about himself of which he’s not particularly proud. "I’ve spent 35 years trying to let go of the destructive parts of my character,” he says. Scenic vignettes involve horses, cactus trees, an omnipresent Chevy El Camino and long, dusty roads. A Coors beer commercial aesthetic is achieved. In one scene, Springsteen glances into a small mirror and sees a metaphor staring back at him.

It’s a lovely film to look at; Springsteen confronting his past and demons in the prettiest, gently tuneful barn-and-big-sky way imaginable.

Western Stars opens Oct. 25

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