A young woman (Didi Conn, Grease) is determined to put her life together, while trying to succeed as an actress, singer, and songwriter.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I can’t depend on anybody else and that’s ok.”
Released by Columbia Pictures, You Light Up My Life is a small-scale film that looks more like a TV movie-of-the-week than the urgent feminist music-drama that the filmmakers clearly intended it to be. That being said, although admittedly corny and dated in places, as a document of 1970s sensibilities, this is a valuable tool to understand how women in particular felt back then towards personal and professional issues.
While the movie is mostly generic and bland, You Light Up My Life did provide actress Didi Conn with her first big break before achieving cinematic immortality as “Frenchy” in Paramount’s blockbuster musical Grease (1978). Luckily for the viewer, Conn, who is a bundle of charm (it’s impossible to dislike her), is in almost every scene, and she alone prevents you from standing up and walking away from the movie.
You Light Up My Life has one big and annoying flaw: the poor dubbing makes it painfully clear that Conn is lip-singing all the songs (celebrated Soprano Kvitka “Kasey” Cisyk dubbed Conn). It makes you wonder why they even bothered to hire Conn, since she spends half of the movie (lip)singing. But as I said before, Conn is an endearing actor, so she provides the credibility the poor dubbing fails to accomplish.
When all is said and done, You Light Up My Life will always be remembered for its famous title song. The once popular tune was written by composer, musician, wannabe filmmaker and sometimes actor Joseph Brooks (The Lords of Flatbush and Eddie and the Cruisers). Brooks also has a small role as a creative director.
The song became the biggest hit in the career of Debby Boone. The melody was so popular, in fact, that the Academy awarded Brooks with an Oscar for Best Song, over the nominated song “Nobody Does It Better” (from the excellent Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me) and the un-nominated (?) original songs from the film Saturday Night Fever (written by the Bee Gees). Even though it is difficult to understand the Academy’s strange lapse in taste, the truth is that “You Light Up My Life” is a lovely tune.
In addition to that, You Light Up My Life has unexpectedly become a piece of crime trivia. It was later discovered that director-writer Brooks was a serial rapist who lured unsuspected women into his pad with promises of fame and fortune — Brooks was apparently the Harvey Weinstein of the music industry. He was indicted by a Grand Jury on multiple counts of rape, but Brooks committed suicide before the trial.
Unfortunately, as they say, there’s more. After Brooks’s suicide, the composer’s son, Nicholas Brooks, was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, popular fashion designer Sylvie Cachay. Young Brooks is currently serving a 25-years-to-life sentence. It’s a very sordid postscript to this amiable, feel-good romantic drama.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
You Light Up My Life is a simple, harmless piece of ’70s corn. The film may seem outdated by today’s standards, but the story revolves around Didi Conn, who is charmingly quirky. I will recommend it only to those viewers that are curious to see where the famous title song came from. Color, 91 minutes, Rated PG.