Sunday, July 6, 2014

Billy Elliot

Billy ElliotBeginning with an exuberant title sequence, this charming, offbeat, coming-of-age story revolves around Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), the younger of two sons of a widower coal miner (Gary Lewis) near Newcastle in Northern England. It's 1984, and the National Union of Mine Workers is engaged in a long, bitter strike, marked by street battles with riot police and protests against the busloads of scabs crossing the picket lines.

Following the family tradition, Billy is expected to learn boxing at the Everington Boys Club where, instead, the 11 year-old becomes enthralled by the girls' dancing class, led by a chain-smoking teacher (Julie Walters) who soon recognizes his raw talent. He loves watching Fred Astaire in old movies and is instantly drawn towards the ballet class, but when his macho father and rabble-rousing brother (Jamie Draven) discover he's taking ballet classes, they ridicule Billy "Lads do boxing and football and wrestling, not friggin' ballet!" forcing him to hide his slippers under the mattress and sneak off to class. Then come the auditions for the Royal Ballet School and Billy's defiantly joyful, foot-stompin' "I Want to Boogie" sequence.

What makes this heartfelt English import such a gem is the collaboration of screenwriter Lee Hall, cinematographer Brian Tufano ("Trainspotting") and former stage director Stephen Daldry ("An Inspector Calls"), who despite the simplistic predictability of the plot create eccentric, lovable characters and evocative imagery. One haunting sequences focuses on a little neighborhood girl dragging a stick along a brick wall, which dissolves into a phalanx of plastic police shields. Another involves the father grimly chopping up Billy's mother's beloved piano for needed firewood. While some of the authentic, heavily accented dialogue may be indecipherable to some, the musical soundtrack, combining classical and pop, is terrific.

In the title role, newcomer Jamie Bell embodies awkward determination, juggling grim reality with a surreal fantasy world, explaining, "Just because I like ballet doesn't mean I'm a pouf!" As Billy's father, Gary Lewis ("My Name is Joe") is tough-yet-tender, and Julie Walters ("Educating Rita") scores as Billy's crusty yet compassionate teacher. ("I feel like a sissy," Billy tells her. "Well, don't act like one," she retorts.) Jamie Draven and Stuart Wells lend strong support. Jean Heywood is touching as Billy's senile grandmother, whom he tenderly cares for and who repeatedly recalls, "I could have been a professional dancer."

While the bleak setting, in the 1984 miners' strike in northeastern England, is reminiscent of "The Full Monty," the energetic mood evokes "Flashdance" and it was a bit hit at both the Toronto and Cannes Film Festivals. On the `Lund Movie Scale' of 1 to 10, "Billy Elliot" is an exhilarating 9. Combining comedy and poignancy, it's all about being able to express yourself.

Jamie Bell is pure magic in this wonderful coming-0f-age film that tells the story of a working class English lad who takes up ballet as a way to hone his boxing skills. In the process, he discovers himself, learnes some valuable life lessons, and fills a deep void left by the death of his beloved mum. Despite his family's strong objections (and financial straits) Billy ends up studying dance from a local teacher (the effervescent Julie Walters, who won an Oscar nomination for her work here). Her lessons both technical and moral serve as the basis for a devastatingly real connection between Billy and his disgusted macho father. What ensues is a dramatic comedy that inspires us at every turn without condescension or pity. The heartening interaction that develops between father and son is truly evocative, especially so for anyone who ever followed (or didn't) their dreams despite their family's objections. Not only does Billy "Dance!!" for his supper...he befriends the local outcast gay teenager and copes with questions about his own sexual orientation heady topics for a movie about a dancing teen. All of this is handled in a mature, thoughtful manner, which makes the film a visceral, haunting experience. You can take or leave it's many messages, but theere is no denying its emotional core.

It's rare for a movie to challenge social mores and values by focusing on the dominant male principals. But "Billy Elliot" succeeds on more levels than other underdog-come-from-behind flicks. First, its based on a true story and resonates with truth, integrity and spirit. And, Bell's brash, authentic portrayal is pure magic. His feet literally take over his soul...he dances in the street, mimmicking Gene Kelly, and in the process taps his way into your heart. The performance is so accomplished it's a wonder Bell didn't receive an Oscar nomination. Even Russell Crowe who won the 2000 BAFTA and Oscar for "Gladiator" admitted Bell deserved the BAFTA Prize instead. Having resisted "Billy Elliot" at the movies, I finally caught it recently on HBO and was taken in immediately. This is a film your entire family can and should enjoy...if they don't, perhaps a little side trip to an English coal-mining town will help them appreciate this wonderful heartwarming film. Seriously, in this day and age, every one of us could use more Billy Elliots and fewer Scorpion Kings. A keeper!

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If you love intimate, moving character films like Cinema Paradiso, you will love love love Billy Elliot. A small, rousing British film with cleverly written characters, this movie is both sentimental and expertly crafted. The performances, particularly from Julie Walters as the dance instructor, and that winsome, melancholy but excpetionally gifted boy as Billy, will truly steal your heart. The simple premise is instantly grabbing -an artistic boy, only 11, is unfortunately the most forgotten element in a fractured, sad little family, which includes a pre-Alzheimer's grandmother, an angry older brother and a defeated, sad and tense father. While Dad and bro are on strike, money is tight the year is 1984 at the height of British strike/tensions. Billy is sent to boxing lessons, where, by happenstance, he discovers a true vent for his budding creativity -and especially his joy in dancing. Filled with infectiously appealing pop and light-classical music, this film is part Rocky, part Hollywood musical, part Flashdance and part Cinema Paradiso. The chance that these disparate, unlikely approaches might actually add up to something compelling are unlikely, but you must experience this movie to understand how exciting, moving and intensely gratifying it can be. Painted in bold, creative colors and shot with a springy exuberance, Billy Elliot is terrific.

Read Best Reviews of Billy Elliot Here

My son dressed up like Beauty(Belle from Beauty and The Beast...not the concept of beauty) for halloween. He dressed like the Mother Superior when we took him to the sing-along Sound Of Music. The other day he got a superman toy and was putting a Barbie Shoe on it. I am living in the world of the unique child.And I know there will be a day where someone will try to change my son........ This is why I cried in Billy Elliot......This is a beautiful film about being different in an uncompromising world. It is a film about economics and society, and how art is developed through frustration and need...but with all that aside it is a truly entertaining and fabulous film. Stephen Daldry, the reknowned theatre director, makes his debut here. The direction is the thing that gives this it's guts. This is a much better film than it needed to be. And the performances....Julie Walters, Jaime Bell and Gary Lewis(such an amazing performance as the dAd)...Just check this out. The movie goes places that you don't expect, and thankfully, places you do. I have just been thinking about the end of the film, and how it is an ugly duckling story...the coolest thing about it is that more than Billy turn into a swan. It seems like the entire community turns swanish. Art and individuality can do that. I was the quasimodo of ducks before my som came along.

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Billy Elliot is an 11-year-old boy played by Jamie Bell. On his way to a boxing lesson, he happened upon a ballet dancing class. Soon he discovered that he was very good at ballet, and he then wanted to become a dancer despite his family's wishes. This is a really touching and inspirational film about achieving dreams that will leave you cheering!

This is easily one of the best movies I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few considering that I'm only 14. "Billy Elliot" is very similar to "October Sky", which is another great movie. (Even the kid's dad is a coal miner!) But it is also very different in the way that it is much more complex and subtle. I have noticed that because this is a British movie, it seems to be a lot more daring than most American movies, with a lot of things that Americans might consider extraneous. But that's what I like about it; Every character is so well developed even if they have a very small role (e.g. Billy's supposedly gay friend). These little aspects of these minor characters add a really nice touch to the already powerful story.

Also, DON'T let the R-rating fool you. THIS IS A FAMILY MOVIE. This movie is NOT pornographic, or violent, or chock-full of coke-sniffing. It just contains some language that little kids shouldn't use. Even so, the profanity is used very maturely. It is never gratuitous or unnecessary, it's just how these British people speak. And the film never seems to glorify the use of such language.

This film was WAY overlooked at the Oscars. It's definitely better than "Gladiator". "Gladiator" may have cool combat actoin, but it's got a very straightforward plot which doesn't make you think. I have NO IDEA why Jamie Bell wasn't nominated for his act. He has a very auspicious start in his filom career with this movie!

If there's one thing to criticize about this movie, it's the fact that the dialogue is spoken with heavy British accents, making it hard to understand at times. But that's not enough to keep me from saying that this is one of the best movies I have ever seen! Watch "October Sky" first, to give you an idea of how an American movie tells a dream, then watch "Billy Elliot" for a more sophisticated British idea.

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