County Durham, during the endless, violent 1984 strike against the Thatcher closure of British coal mines. Widower Jackie Elliot and his firstborn, fellow miner Tony, take a dim view of 11 year-old second son Billy's poor record in boxing class, which worsens when they discover he sneakily transferred to the neighboring, otherwise girls-only-attended ballet class. Only one schoolmate, closet-gay Michael Caffrey, encourages Billy's desire, aroused by the teacher, who judged him talented enough for private lesson, to train and try out for the world-renowned Royal Ballet audition. Only the prospect of a fancy career unimagined in the pauper quarter may twist pa and big brother's opposition to indispensable support. Written by
Jamie Bell was going through puberty at the time of filming. Some of his dialog had to be post-synched as his voice had broken. And the opening scene in which he jumps up and down on a bed to T. Rex's "Cosmic Dancer" was shot over a lengthy period of time. For the latter takes, Bell had acquired hair on his legs and had to have them shaved. See more »
The punch-bag in the dimly lit shot of the gymnasium when Mrs Wilkinson is talking to Billy is moving in one shot (at around 39 mins), then stationary in the next (00:39:21), then moving again (00:40:20). See more »
This is one of those really great dramas that only come around maybe once a year. This is my pick for the best drama of 2000. Filled with amazing characters, a great plot, and circumstances that seem too real, the wonderfully underplayed value of it takes precedence over anything set against it.
There are some great performances here, so let's get to em.
Jamie Bell plays the lead role, in an astonishing performance. Amazing dance routines done in perfect sync, I can just imagine the time he had memorizing all the steps. A knockout performance, with some of the most dramatic scenes played out with perfect honesty and realism.
Another notable performance comes from Julie Walters, who plays Mrs. Wilkinson, the dance instructor in the mining town where Billy lives. Once a great dancer but now forced to work in the bottom floor of a boxing hall, she plays her part wonderfully, showing the lack of compassion and jadedness without words but only through expressions, deep hurt lying beneath all that scorn, but love shining through as she sees Billy's true talent.
Finally, performance wise, we have Gary Lewis, who plays Billy's father. With wonderful scenes that play themselves out with harsh reality, I never tire of seeing the hurt in his eyes when he sees that his little boy isn't going to be a boxer or a football player, but a dancer, then seeing him again with the love and appreciation for his dancing son. Some things must be experienced, and the deep hurt he carries about the death of his wife is one of those. Greatness all around.
The one problem I did have with this movie is that it is first of all rated R. Why?! If it weren't for the few (and very effective) uses of the 'F' word, it would've gotten a PG-13 rating. It so strongly needs the 'F' word, yet it needs to be seen by a PG-13 audience! This is a move that truly should be shown to middle schoolers all over the country, showing that you should believe in yourself and no one else. Follow your dreams. Not only is this message not shoved down your throat (as some other movies shamelessly do), but it is done in such a way that you truly believe it. You want good things to happen, and you get that, but not spotless and clean. Nothing is done easily, and there will always be someone who will try and stop your dreams from coming true.
Another (and the only other problem) are the accents. The British definitely have a style of speaking all their own, and it sometimes took a moment for all the dialogue to register. Sometimes I'd miss half a scene, trying to decipher out exactly what was said. However, the tones and emotions of most scenes were enough to let you know what was said. Everything didn't have to be spelt out, but I can imagine that after I get this DVD I will sit down with the captions on, just to know I didn't miss anything. This is one of the only complaints I have for another favorite of mine, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Billy Elliot is a true rag-to-riches story that unfolds amazingly well without pulling your heartstrings shamelessly as other movies love to do. I recommend this to all, expect to be entertained with great plot twists as well as interesting characters, wonderful dialogue, and a story that can never grow old: Follow your dreams.
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