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film review

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa in Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You, premiering Oct. 23 on Apple TV+.APPLE TV+

  • Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You
  • Directed by Thom Zimny
  • Written by Bruce Springsteen
  • Starring Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg
  • Classification NA; 91 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars


For years we’ve been hearing that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards would outlive everybody and the cockroaches. But the smart money should be on 71-year-old Bruce Springsteen, who in a new documentary about the making of his latest album is shown to be fit, tan and Marlboro Man handsome, with the skin tone of a god. The album is Letter to You, a record that addresses mortality and what bandleader Springsteen – not for nothing is he known as the Boss – calls the “confederacy” of bandmates.

The rock star reminisces about being the sole surviving member of a pre-fame group, the Castiles. He wrote a song about it: Last Man Standing. The film, shot handsomely in black and white by collaborator Thom Zimny, explains the themes of the album. It has the look of fly-on-the-wall documentation, but that’s a façade. There is no tension, no drama; this was shot with a predetermined narrative. “We’re having fun, damn it!” Springsteen implores his troops at one point.

I use the word “troops” intentionally, because there’s a war-buddy-reunion vibe to the making of the album, Springsteen’s first with the E Street Band in six years. The film is strikingly earnest. Springsteen’s overwritten narration and his whisky-glass toasts to his band are indistinguishable. With too much salutation and not enough action, this is a (fine) companion to the album but not a freestanding film.

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You is available to stream on Apple TV+ starting Oct. 23