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Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry) 2000

 

I really am not that impressed with a film that leaves the viewer NO room to form an opinion contrary to what you're "Supposed to" feel. Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot is a film that'ss so formulaic that it's really sad. Let's hope Daldry (making his directorial debut here) doesn't try to apply this same approach to his adaptation of Mike Cunningham's "The Hours". There are a few early scenes that show Billy's discovery of ballet that really are something special, but even these are cross cut with shots showing the police quelling a worker's rebellion. The biggest problem with the film is that Billy is meant to stand for more than he is. He's filling in as hope for an entire community here. His dad and brother have resigned themselves to being coal workers. His teacher has a failed marriage and teaches for 50 pence a lesson. His gay friend feels stifled by his homosexuality and sees Billy as the only one who understands him. His grandmother had hopes of being a pro dancer, but never got the training. Taken one by one these subplots are fine, but the accumulation of them all makes the film feel so forced that it really hurts the overall impact of Billy's dancing glories. The film achieves its successes in the small moments of personal discovery; the rest seems unnecessary.

The scenes simply work much better alone than in the framework of the picture where they all combine to form mush despite the fact that there is little mush contained in them individually. There's a good supporting performance by Julie Waters. The rest of the cast is fine if unexceptional. It's hardly an awful film, and I realize there is talent present, but I just with it wasn't all so damn manipulative.

***

September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman