Michael Jackson's This Is It

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 11/03/09 13:34:02

"This Is It…Will You Be There?"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

There is something peculiar watching Michael Jackson go through his rehearsals for what was supposed to be his comeback concert- This Is It. The knowledge that you are watching a man work, nay strive, at perfecting each move, each note and in fact each aspect of a stage-production, which eventually, he won’t live to see through to its end puts you, as an audience, in an uncomfortable position. And yet, as the minutes tick by in this 112 minute documentary, the feeling stops being unnatural and instead the proceedings turn poignant…sure to make even his critics wonder whether they judged the man too harshly and too soon.

There is nothing on display in This Is It to suggest that Michael Jackson, MJ as he was known, was a ‘wacko’ and a drug-abuser. What we see in fact is a man, the Peter Pan of Pop, struggling with the minutest of details to ensure that he puts on a great show…almost as if he knew that this is it- his last attempt at reclaiming the once glory that made the Guinness Book of World Records label him the ‘Most Successful Entertainer of All Time.’

When it was announced that a documentary was going to be culled from over a hundred hours of MJ’s rehearsal footage (this is a film truly made on the editing table), there was concern whether it was merely a gimmick to cash in on the hype and interest created by MJ’s untimely death. But Kenny Ortega, the director of the concert and this feature, fashions the most unlikely of documentaries…mentioning MJ’s death only once as an opening note. What we see thereafter is simply MJ and his troop- dancers handpicked to perform alongside the King of Pop -preparing for the concert.

This wasn’t going to be any small concert. MJ and Ortega had massive plans. A new video was shot for Thriller, as was for Earth Song (a video that even in its rough stage as it is now can trump most contemporary music videos). Besides, the audience was going to be treated to some amazing pyrotechnics and aerialists. As it seems, the world has truly been deprived of what would have been a spellbinding concert.

Yet, it is not these flamboyant flourishes and technical wizardry that really touch you. What touches you is to see the ageing pop-star (MJ looks frail and thin, but he manages to match his young troupe step for step!) question himself after he’s vowed his director, dancers and technicians with an extended dance routine to Billie Jean, plainly remarking, “At least, we got a feel!” Or when he gets carried away in the moment while singing the Jackson 5 number I’ll Be There and then reprimands himself by saying that he should save his voice for the concert.

What we also get to see is a man who, unlike many stars, is extremely humble and soft-spoken with his staff and crew. Watch him as he argues with his music composer Bearden over a hasty tempo that he adopts in The Way You Make Me Feel. He makes his point, without bringing MJ- the icon into the argument. Watch him when he tells the sexy blonde guitarist Orianthi that her solo in Beat It is her “moment to shine!”

It is moments such as these that make this feature an affecting one, making you privy to the backstage moments of the greatest concert that wasn’t meant to be. It is a tribute to the staff and the crew associated with the event and a testament to the genius of the legendary pop icon.

To all of us who wish we could’ve seen the actual thing…This is it!

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