Bright Lights, Big City: 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition Review: Still Rings True in Today’s Social-media and Celebrity-obsessed Culture

Bright Lights, Big City is being released in a Special Collector’s Edition for its 30th Anniversary celebration. The film is based on Jay McInerney’s novel of the same title. Directed by James Bridges and produced by Sydney Pollack, the movie follows Jamie Conway (Michael J. Fox) through his need to escape his daily reality after his mother (Dianne Wiest) dies and his model wife Amanda (Phoebe Cates) leaves him for a new life. Jamie spends his days as a fact-checker at a New York magazine where his co-worker Megan (Swoosie Kurtz) tries to help him survive, while Jamie spends his nights in clubs with his friend Tad Allagash (Kiefer Sutherland) doing coke, drinking vodka, and fumbling with women. Jamie tries to run from his past, but it quickly catches up with him as he loses his job and must face both his mother’s death and losing Amanda.

The film not only has solid actors across the board, but solid acting. This 1988 film came a few years after Fox’s performances in Teen Wolf and Back to the Future and at the end of his time on Family Ties. His performance really showcases his ability to play serious roles after blockbuster comedic films. Cates, Sutherland, West, and Kurtz, all deliver convincing and powerful roles and add to the reality of Jamie’s downward spiral.

While some aspects of this film are dated, most of it still holds up in this tale of addiction and grief avoidance. Bright Lights, Big City is not just another film about a person hitting rock-bottom; it is a film about what happens when people cannot deal with grief and loss. While the film takes places in the ’80s, the opulence, shallowness, and addiction to drugs and celebrity ring true in today’s social-media and celebrity-obsessed culture.

In addition to the film, the Special Collector’s Edition DVD and Blu-ray include commentary tracks with author/screenwriter McInerney and cinematographer Gordon Willis, two featurettes entitled “Jay McInerney’s The Light Within” and “Big City Lights,” a photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. The featurettes are definitely dated, and were clearly not produced for the 30th Anniversary, but still give good insight into McInerney’s personal story and the stories of other filmmakers who were inspired by both the novel and the movie.

I enjoyed the commentaries, but they were difficult to find as they are not listed under the “special features” menu and are instead listed under the “setup” menu. But both are worth a listen with subsequent viewings. I also enjoyed the playfulness of the outer-sleeve packaging, which has been made to resemble a battered VHS tape sleeve even including the “Be Kind, Please Rewind” reminder sticker and the partially peeled sticker from the alleged video store it was rented from.

The 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of Bright Lights, Big City is available now on Blu-ray and DVD. The film is rated R and has a runtime of 108 minutes.

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Darcy Staniforth

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