Billy Elliot Reviews
The tale of a humble miners son whose aspirations to become a male ballet dancer are frowned upon by his blue collar father and similar blue collar brother. Set in north eastern England around 1984-85 during the miners strikes against a powerful Thatcher led Conservative regime...errr I mean government. Billy is destined to become a miner like his older brother and father and is pretty much forced to take part in boxing at school by his father. His dad obviously wants more for his boy with the possibility of boxing but he knows the pit beckons.
On the other hand Billy discovers his love for dancing in ballet and wants to follow that path. Naturally this disgusts his strong proud father and gets him into trouble for disobeying. The whole plot could be the tale of many many northern born men within England at any point in time really. I have lived up north in the UK and it can indeed be a bit bleak with little job prospects for youngsters (no offence to the north).
The whole film is one big stereotype really, but a very real and truthful stereotype. Billy's tough working father is a typical northern bloke who likes beer boxing and a good plate of drippin' sandwiches. The area they live in is of course very working class with small terrace housing along steep hills and flatcaps everywhere and the general attitude of all the men is somewhat old fashioned. Boys partake in football rugby and boxing, girls do ballet and sewing, there is no middle ground...dare I say homophobia is lightly touched upon too.
I am exaggerating yes? well not really, as I said I've lived up north for many years and in some areas this is exactly what its like to this day. Thinking back to 1984-85 it would have been ten times worse!.
The main crux of the story is Billy's struggle against 'the norm' and his fathers rules. He wants to be a ballet dancer, his school dance teacher thinks he's good enough but the money isn't there to fund it any further and his father hates the fact his boy might be a sissy. I think many people will be able to relate to this story as I said, but not just with dancing, with many areas. The scenes where Billy fights against his dad are naturally emotionally strong and really hooked me. There are many scenes where Billy gets into trouble by playing with his homosexual friend whom he doesn't understand is homosexual, not going to boxing lessons, going to ballet lessons and the intense strike sequences which are all terrifically acted out and really sucked me into the moment.
The moments of spontaneous dance from Billy are really cool to watch, I really found myself wanting to dance too, yeah maybe I can do what Billy does!. Every character is wonderfully portrayed, Bell is a little bit too full of himself at times, a bit too eager to please by over acting perhaps but he's certainly fun to watch. The only character I thought was maybe a bit off was Billy's dad played by Gary Lewis. I really thought this character needed to be much harsher, stricter, he was tough but I didn't really fear him or his rule. I'm not saying there should have been nasty beatings but he just didn't sell the gruff northerner aspect to me despite the fact he's Scottish. I think the fact he is actually Scottish (and in the film it seems) means he doesn't have the REAL English northerner spirit inside him, unlike a real Geordie, Yorkshireman, Mackem etc...
The build up to the finale is quite moving and did pull on my heart strings I can't deny. Its all very cliche but it damn well works...damn it!. The whole notion of anyone trying to simply make their father/mother proud by their good actions or dedication to something is a warm path to tread and guaranteed hanky dampener at the movies. Again many will be able to relate to the lovely final curtain sequence as Billy finally shows his family what he has achieved, it does put a lump in your throat and made me wish I could do the same with my own father.
I think you will get more out of this film being British and knowing of the north south divide and stereotypical views within the UK. I think if you live up north then you will certainly know the vibe this film gives off and will be able to relate and hopefully enjoy. It can be a feel good film but at the same time it can also be a slightly depressing film on various aspects...the miners strikes, being on the breadline, the grim north and being a youngster trying to break out of a situation. In the end the film is a joy to watch and should leave you upbeat. I hope I have not upset any of my northern countrymen, my dad is a Yorkshireman born n bred so I have experience ^_^
On its surface this is a charming film, but there are quite a few gritty, dramatic scenes, at the heart of which is Gary Lewis whose stern demeanor and rough exterior make Dad the heart of much of the film's conflict. Julie Walters's turn as a tough, chain smoking dance instructor isn't the stuff Disney films are made of.
I liked the film, enjoying the dance sequences and the aforementioned performances, but I wondered about why the film needed to include uncertainty about Billy's sexuality. it seems natural that ignorant characters would automatically equate ballet with being a "poof," but I didn't see any motivation for Billy to internalize these criticisms.
Overall, Billy Elliot is a good film that is darker and more dramatic than first meets the eye.
Director: Stephen Daldry
When 11-year-old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) trades boxing school for ballet lessons, his father (Gary Lewis) -- a hardworking miner from Northern England who despises the idea of his son running around in toe shoes -- is less than pleased. But when the boy wins an audition for the Royal Ballet School, he experiences a change of heart. An Oscar-nominated drama that spawned a Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name.
My Thoughts: "I loved it! It's a funny, emotional, feel-good movie. I can't believe I waited so long to see it. I am fan of Jamie Bell, and I am completely impressed by him in this film. He was fantastic as Billy Elliot. Such a great talent at such an young age. I loved the father. Gary Lewis was great. He that hard exterior but a gentle interior which made his character funny and honest. Great cast. Loved Julie Walters in this film. Haven't seen her in many, but I loved her characters sassy attitude. I laughed, I cried, and in the end, this is now a definite favorite. A great film that I think all the family could enjoy."
A talented young boy becomes torn between his unexpected love of dance and the disintegration of his family.
The much lauded and nominated film "Billy Elliott" is a slice of life flick about an 11 year old English boy who, to the dismay of his motherless working class coal mining family, chooses ballet over boxing as a pastime. The film is technically excellent, artistically well done, and follows the traditions of Hollywood film-making. The story is a pleasant mix of humor and pathos, not too deep, and palatable enough to make it an audience favorite. In addition to being just plain fun to watch, "Billy Elliot" makes a few points about accepting people for who they are; about the undeniability of innate passion by artists; and about the sublimation of aggression through dance. Kudos to the choreographer and Bell for some fun to watch and never seen before kookie, kid-like mixes of jazz, tap, ballet, and jigs.
Billy: Don't know.
Billy: Just was.
NCB Official: Well was there any particular aspect of the ballet which caught your imagination?
Billy: The dancin'.
A young boy in the midst of his boxing lessons stumbles over to the other half of the gym, where ballet lessons are going on. Out of curiosity he decides to try it out and to his surprise, he enjoys it.
This boy is Billy Elliot, played very well by Jamie Bell. He lives in a fictional mining town in England. The town is going through a strike currently, which includes his father and older brother standing at picket lines and spitting at scabs pushing back at the police. At home, Billy lives with these two and his grandmother. His own mother has passed away.
Of course, Billy has to hide his new found joy for ballet from everyone, except for his best friend Michael who has a secret of his own.
While in class, he gets better and better thanks to his teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Julie Walters, and eventually gets the chance to change everything by having an audition to go to a fancy dancing school in London.
This movie works for a number of reasons. The characters all work very well, particularly Jaime Bell, Julie Walters, and Gary Lewis who plays Billy's dad and goes through a couple of scenes that work really well to show the conflicting situation of whether to support Billy.
The soundtrack is very good, using a lot of English classic rock bands like The Clash and The Jam. This works well with a number of visual and dance driven scenes.
Visually, this is a lot of fun, with a couple of neat things going on involving the strike, the police, and the placement of certain elements in the backdrops of particular scene.
It also helps that even though this film is basically a fantasy, it is treated like a drama in reality, which includes characters talking like real people, which means they curse a lot.
This is a good movie, with a good lead that knows how to dance.
Mrs. Wilkinson: This'll sound strange, Billy, but for some time now I've been thinkin' of the Royal Ballet School.
Billy: Aren't you a bit old, miss?
Mrs. Wilkinson: No, not me... you! I'm the bloody teacher!