Monday, July 30, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Billy Elliot (2000) ***½

R, 110 min.
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer: Lee Hall
Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell

I never caught “Billy Elliot” when it was making waves in the box office.  It seemed like another one of those British feel goods in the same vein as “The Full Monty” or “Waking Ned Devine”, and although I figured it was worth the watch, the impetus to see it just wasn’t that strong, even with it’s Oscar recognition.

Upon finally viewing it, I am struck by the raw nature of it. First, I watched it in HD and it seemed like an early digital film from the look of the picture. I tried to find information on the filming format, but had no luck. The look is something akin to an after school special, but it works in the film’s favor. It feels grittier than the more polished look of most feature films. This helps make the sentimental parts a little more palatable and enhances the sub plot of the miner’s strike as a struggle of the everyman. Connecting that story more strongly with the main story line about a boy who discovers that he’s more drawn to the ballet than to boxing, helps solidify the story’s themes.

The dialogue is the rawest element of the film. After the movie began to gain so much critical recognition at the end of 2000, it was decided to reduce the film’s rating from R to PG-13 in order to increase DVD rental sales. This required the removal of much of the film’s foul language. The version that is streaming on Netflix Instant is most certainly the R-rated version. I’m not sure softening the delivery of the story is helpful to it, even though it’s really a feel good movie at heart. It’s a feel good movie, but it earns that through the tough lives of its characters. The language is important to make the boy’s choice to go with ballet a braver and more severe decision. That serves the strength of the boy and his father and brother.

No comments: