Billy Elliot

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 01/09/01 14:29:35

"A wide arching tale of inspiration and triumph"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Easily one of the best films of 2000. Billy Elliot, set in a working class coal mining town, profiles the aspiration and struggle of a boy interested in the ballet. Billy's dad is a typical mate's mate who equates dance with "gay" and blows his top when he discovers the boxing money is going for tights and slippers. But Billy refuses to budge. The fire that forces its way out in his dancing is directed towards his father, and most everything, that tries to tell him "No". Billy, like his father, is a fighter.

Times are tough for the Elliots. Mom has just died and dad and older brother are unemployed due to a national labor strike.

His father manages to put 50 pence aside each week for Billy to take boxing lessons like all the local village lads. Billy soon discovers he would rather move with grace and strength as an object of beauty than with grace and strength as a force of destruction.

The Three C's of diamonds, carat, clarity and color can be applied to Billy Elliot because it is a gem of a film. Its weighty, the story is not bogged down by unecessary details or lengthy side excursions into the themes of classism or homophobia and the composition and cast of the film is vibrant.

I loved Billy as I was supposed to do. I really wanted him to get what he wanted and I was encouraging him to try and fight and keep on. I was glad when the story did not disappoint my enthusiastic identification with him. I especially appreciated not only the openness of the film in dealing with homosexuality, which as any of my readers know is practically a mission for me, but I liked the sensitivity and intelligence with which adolescent homosexuality was treated and the non-campiness of adult homosexuality. I was very interested in Billy's childhood friend who leaves the village and heads to London to reinvent himself in an appropriate image because there are no gay role models in small town life.

But there is more to this film than the subtle message that "its okay to be gay and that straight and gay men can have warm, intimate relationships". Sacrifice and perserverance get their time on screen and we some surprising character development.

I didn't follow the flip flop of the Dad and Brother nearly so well as I did Billy's steadfastness and their role as a comedy element later in the film seemed to come from nowhere but I still believed they had it in them to be light and tolerant and to have their feelings changed.

I wonder how they would have responded if Billy was gay and wanted to dance, rather than just wanted to dance. I think it was okay for him to be a dancer mostly because he wasn't gay. His dad could understand that dancing was what he wanted to do but I don't know if he could have easily accepted his son as a homosexual as easily as he could as a dancer.

But thats not really what the movie is about and it shouldn't offend the gay audience any. If anything, the film was honest in its portrayal of the generic coal mining bloke.

Fiery, passionate performances. We are treated to refined conviction that informs every character in this film. Single minded devotion to a cause is a common trait of all the characters and underneath all the hardness and ferocity is love and caring that warms up the story and softens its steely edge.

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