71 – Billy Elliot

An 11-year old boy from a working-class British family is torn between his desire to learn ballet and his father’s wish for him to learn boxing. Billy’s father is headstrong and medieval in his worldly outlook, as he only wants manly things for his son. But Billy sees something more in the poetry of ballet, and he wants more than anything else to be as fluid and graceful as those sinewy dancers.

Having established the conflict of the story from the outset, the movie takes us through Billy’s struggles to complete his ballet training privately (under the tutelage of Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Julie Walters). It’s a great idea for a movie, really, because of the stark contrast between the outside world of Billy’s neighborhood (which exists under the spectre of an ominous protracted workers’ strike, of which Billy’s father participates) and the inner workings of Billy’s decidedly unmanly mind.

However, the film is hit or miss. If the viewer allows himself or herself to become fully wrapped up in Billy’s predicament, much as one would approach a soap opera, then one will fall for this unabashed schmaltz-fest with no problems. But for the more cynical among us, the movie fails in that it plays out virtually every Hollywood cliche imaginable; the only true original notion in the movie is the basic “boy wants to be a ballet dancer” ideal.

Here are some tried-and-true portions of the movie: Boy wants to do something against dad’s wishes. Boy’s dad is a tough-as-nails cretin, stolidly stupid but somewhere, deep inside, he loves his boy. Then there’s the unforgiving teacher (Mr. Miyagi, anyone?). And the Impossible Dream. The list goes on and one.

When I first popped this in the ol’ DVD player, I accidentally set it to play in French (at least I think that’s what that was…) Then I stopped it and switched the settings. Guess what? The overwrought Cockney accents are, at times, absolutely indecipherable. It’s like watching a foreign film, only not as full of deep meaning.

In short, this can be a real snorefest if you’re not ready to become one with the plight of poor Master Elliot. If you are, more power to you; time for you to dust off that old copy of Love Story. But if you’re like the rest of us, skip it unless you’re suffering from sleep deprivation.

Billy Elliot: 5


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