Erik Larson

Oct 1, 2009

Bright Lights, Big Crappy

Hollywood has long attacked good literature by burning it with kerosine, salamander patches on the director’s arm. A little of the 451 . But they don’t. Of course. They do it rather by making movies. I unfortunately stumbled into “Bright Lights, Big City”, the 1988 film based on Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel of the same name. Oh god, where do I even start? How about with that perpetual pip-squeak of an actor, Michael J. Fox (separate his acting from his more recent medical problems), who rocketed to stardom in the 1980s playing gee-whiz characters in such cinematic tours de force as The Secret of My Success and Doc Hollywood. In Bright Lights (an old movie of course, but it flew into my living room tonight on the wings of DirectTV channels and stupid boredom) he’s playing the Hollywood version of McInerey’s protagonist, a coke-snorting, ambitious but lost 20 something wading through the yuppy drug scene of 1980s New York, running from shattered romance and into, well, bright lights, and the Big City. The novel was edgy . The film? The film castrated it with poor casting, a John Hughes-like feel, and a movie product better suited for inclusion in episodes of The Wiggles than serious cinema. Whatever. As Motley Crue once noted, it’s the same old, same old song and daance . Grab the novel, instead. Bag the movie.