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Billy Elliot
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95 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

Billy Elliot - The Class of 2000

10/10
Author: robmillrs from Toronto
10 December 2000

To say that Billy Elliot is the best movie of 2000 is to damn it with faint praise, since this year's crop is pretty uninspiring. Better to compare it to movies of the past few years, and even then it would stand out. It is a phenomenally good film, and perhaps even groundbreaking in its own way, since it goes against the trend of quirky, violent, sex-obsessed moviemaking that's become so popular recently. We've finally been given a film with a good, almost mythic story, complicated yet believable characters, a masterful blend of emotional intensity and critical restraint, and a series of dance scenes that are authentic, inspiring and completely integral to the plot.

No wonder critics have been falling over themselves in heaping praise on Billy Elliot. No wonder it's been holding its own in the box office despite being shown in a mere handful of theatres (one-quarter to one- sixth as many as the big Hollywood blockbusters) and despite its receiving hardly any promotion at the moment. Its success is being driven by word of mouth. And what is the word? Here is a movie that appeals to your heart, head, funny bone, eyes and ears, and last but not least your feet, for the music and the movement will have you wanting to get up and dance. And it achieves all of this without insulting the intelligence. I sometimes wonder how the movie would have been done by Hollywood: Billy would have been made a more pathetic figure; the people in his life rendered more black and white; characters would have either remained caricatures, or made to develop in the blink of an eye. All such excesses are avoided in Billy Elliot, where the characters develop in a totally believable way, where Billy invites admiration instead of pity, and where the silences, looks and gestures all leave so much to the imagination. The dictum "Less is more" is clearly the guiding principle behind the film.

The buzz for Billy has been so positive that people sometimes come away disappointed that their lives haven't been changed. So don't go expecting a "knock 'em dead" Hollywood rollercoaster. Billy Elliot is far more subtle, though the emotional moments are all the more powerful because of that. You can however believe everything that has been said of Jamie Bell. He has an outstanding screen presence and carries the movie on his little shoulders with breath-taking naturalism. His dancing is honest and powerful, and very masculine. He makes you forget that all the other actors give the performances of their careers in support. If the Oscar were awarded without consideration for age, career, box office draw or Hollywood clout, Jamie and his movie would win hands down.

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85 out of 93 people found the following review useful:

Simply excellent

10/10
Author: Juni78ukr (juni78ukr@yahoo.com) from Odessa, Ukraine
22 November 2004

I have been looking for Billy Elliot for more than two years. I heard that it should be very good or even excellent film and another reason for watching it was that I have seen several Working Title films before (About a Boy, Notting Hill, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and I found all of them much more sincere and emotional than average Hollywood products. Also these British films have something to offer that you rarely can find in Hollywood movies: a charming heartwarming mixture of sweet and funny comedy and inspiring and touching drama. Last month, finally, I found the tape. From very first moments of the movie my eyes were riveted to the screen and when the movie ended feelings and emotions overflowed me. Billy Elliot in my opinion Billy Elliot is a brilliant movie, easily one of the best movies of the year and most likely of the current decade.

Director of the movie Stephen Daldry brought to us an exceptional, truly inspiring and moving, emotional and poignant movie. The entire story and all the characters are completely believable and the atmosphere of small provincial town somewhere in North-Eastern England skillfully captured and transmitted to us. Sometimes the movie is sad, sometimes it's funny but Stephen Daldry's work never leave you indifferent. The story occurs in a small coal-mining town in 1984 and there are signs of a severe depression all over the town. You can see all around a shadow of distress and even poverty. Some simple but incredibly powerful scenes bring to us sad feeling of hopelessness and even despair. There is a big coalminers strike in the town but it's easy to see that it's also the hopeless strike. But all this is only a masterfully recreated background for main story of the title character, a twelve years old boy. He recently lost his mother and both his father and elder brother are striking coalminers. Billy is forced by his father to attend boxing classes and one day accidentally he see the girl ballet classes that occur in same room and he find ballet much more interesting than hated stupid boxing. So he attends those ballet classes instead the boxing and there is nothing surprising that after a few weeks his father suddenly finds out that Billy didn't attend boxing and worst of all he is attending the ballet classes. The main conflict occurs.

Billy must fight for his choice, fight against his own family. There are two stereotypes against him. First one is that ballet for girls, not for boys (lads do football... or boxing... or wrestling). And second sounds even worse: all male ballet dancers are gays. Billy is not but no one from his family except aged grandma want even heard about ballet. There are only two people in the whole town, who support him – middle-aged ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson and his friend Michael, who is the same age as Billy and who found that he is possibly a gay. This gay subplot easily became for conservative audience a very controversial question. But the fact is that such stereotypes are not invented by the director of the movie and if you would try to learn more about this terrific picture you will found that Jamie Bell, who took dance lessons from age six, suffered from similar sneers and taunts. Billy's problem is that he must fight not only against bad obstacles and misunderstanding but also against strong social stereotypes. Several brilliant come scenes and bright humor greatly emphasize the struggles of the main hero.

Jamie Bell playing Billy has on of the best performances ever among young actors. His performance (and particularly dance sequences) is so genuine, bright and sincere that all the time we can easily feel an expression of a young boy, not a director, choreographer or writer. BAFTA award for best actor of the year is well-deserved and it is pity that conservatism of the Academy too often becomes an insuperable obstacle for many great movies. Julie Walters (an Academy nomination for best supporting actress) as Billy's ballet teacher also did a great job as a talented woman as a talented women who forced to teach in small provincial town for pitiful salary. The chemistry between teacher and student is another great line in Billy Elliot. Two other important supporting characters – Billy's father and elder brother Tony are also excellent and their evolution is perfectly showed by Stephen Daldry's direction. The beautiful soundtrack is a perfect combination of a classic (including a nice reference to great Swan Lake) and modern music.

The original "R" rating shouldn't mislead you. Except for strong language it should be easily a PG-13. But this is a very rare case where some strong language and profanity are necessary for authenticity and characters understanding. The movie is suitable for teens and it definitely is able to give some good lessons for them.

10 out of 10 looks well deserved. Thanks for reading and sorry for my bad English

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83 out of 96 people found the following review useful:

Simply Fantastic

Author: gershwin-3 from New Hampshire
6 January 2001

I went into this movie expecting to hate it, and found myself instantly smiling at the playful opening credits with Billy jumping on a trampoline. From there on it just got better and better. The wasn't even a minor character that I could say needed work. The cast as a whole was brilliant - and surprising at times. The father and brother come off as these one-sided brutal characters in the beginning and then as you watch, they become two of the most well constructed and acted characters this year and for who knows how long. Jaime Bell is brilliant for a first-timer and his dance is wonderful. There are also so many layers to the film. From brilliant cinematography to wonderful symbolism both in the script and in the music (listen for the tune Billy is playing on piano in the main score during the big moments). The music on a whole was brilliantly picked and I don't think a single element was overlooked or addressed. If you haven't seen this movie - GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND INTO THE THEATER! It is truly an experience that everyone should have and I hope to see more from this writer, director and a brilliant new face in Jaime Bell.

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76 out of 85 people found the following review useful:

a pleasure from start to finish

Author: (off.rails) from London, England
21 August 2000

With a seemingly run-of-the-mill storyline - that of an 11-year-old schoolboy wanting to be a ballet dancer - it is quite a feat to have made a movie as warm and entertaining as this.

Quite simply, this is the best British movie in years. All the characters are intriguing, and the acting is flawless, most notably from 14-year-old Jamie Bell whose acting is utterly convincing, filled with humour and insight beyond his years. He is also a fantastic dancer, and some of the dance sequences are reminiscent of the dance-filled musicals of the old black and white movies.

The backdrop of the historic miners' strike of the mid-1980s, it brings the story down to the earth and adds the necessary tension to make this film truly believable and a worthy story to tell.

I find it hard to see how anyone would not like this film. 9 and a half out of 10.

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54 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful!

9/10
Author: cooper-29 from San Leandro, CA
20 January 2001

I had seen the commercials and they emphasize the dancing aspect of the story which is great but there is so much more to this movie. It deals with death and it touches on Mens feelings of loss and what a Man is and even deals a bit with homosexuality. Theres not many times where I sit though the end credits anymore but I was mesmorized. I laughed in this movie and I cried too. The dance scenes were terrific too. The boy who played Billy should get an award hands down for this movie. I watched the emotion on his face and it was amazing. This is the best breakout performance by a young boy since haley Joel Osmant in Sixth Sense. I have to say I just loved Julie Walters too. Where has she been since Educating Rita. Inspite of the swear words this is a movie that families should see. Its hard to believe this gets an R rating and movies like Scary Movie get...only R ratings. I dont get it. Strange that two of my favorite recent movies are from the British...This and Croupier. Word to Hollywood, make more movies like this or at lease import more like this. Dont miss this one!

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60 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

A nearly flawless drama

9/10
Author: (pumpkinland2000@hotmail.com) from Morristown, TN
18 November 2000

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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41 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Sheer magic

9/10
Author: Geofbob from London, England
22 December 2005

Billy Elliott is a moving, uplifting, and often exuberant, drama about motherless young Billie (Jamie Bell) fulfilling his dream of becoming a ballet dancer, in the process overcoming the objections and prejudices of his father and brother (Gary Lewis and Jamie Draven).

It is also a piece of magic realism, with political overtones. By setting their near fairy tale in the context of a close-knit mining community, and more specifically against the backdrop of the 1984/5 miners' strike - a defining moment of modern British economic and social history - writer Lee Hall and director Stephen Daldry are able to refer to gender and class issues, without turning their work into a political tract, and without losing focus on the central human drama.

The film is realised near flawlessly. Bell achieves a convincing blend of adolescent bewilderment and defiance; if his dancing is not quite as good as we might expect, the storyline explains this away by saying that at this early stage his attitude and drive are more important than his technique. The dancing set pieces, clearly inspired more by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly than by Nijinksky, are performed with gusto, mainly to pop songs by T-Rex.

Lewis and Draven put gritty realism and passion into their roles of a father and son committed to their community and to the miners' cause. They make us feel their despair as they realise that this cause is lost; but also their endurance as they come to terms both with Billie's aspirations and their own uncertain futures - within a few years most UK coalmines would be closed. (The colliery in Easington, the real-life location of the film, closed in 1994.). The scenes of violence between strikers and police are presented uncompromisingly and authentically, but with the occasional touch of humour.

Julie Walters provides an outstanding performance as Mrs Wilkinson, the dancing teacher who recognises and fosters Billie's talent; and helps him resist his own and his family's inhibitions. She is perfect as the chain-smoking, straight-talking mentor, who has her own personal disappointments and hurts, which she hopes Billie's success will help heal. To we outsiders watching the movie, Mrs Wilkinson appears as an integral part of the local community; but it is made clear that in the mid-80s, as far as Billie's family and friends are concerned, she is a middle class outsider, almost as alien as another species.

One issue which the film tackles head-on is traditional heterosexual male abhorrence of homosexuality. This attitude clearly underlies the shock of Billie's father and brother when they discover his interest in ballet. They would be even more horrified if they realised that his best friend was discovering gay tendencies in himself. It is typical of the sensitive direction that without labouring the point the film indicates by its close that attitudes towards gays changed radically during the 1980s and 90s along with the industrial landscape.

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41 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

From Ugly Ducking to Beautiful Swan

Author: Lady MoonDance (thewebmoon@aol.com)
11 October 2000

Billy Elliot is a truly inspirational movie. It reminds us of the human potential to transcend our economic surroundings and the expectations of society by doing something so simple, and yet sometimes so very difficult, as simply being ourselves.

Born in a socially and economically repressed mining town, Billy is told that boys box or wrestle; boys don't dance. But Billy loves to dance and does so every chance that he gets.

Does a love of ballet make you gay? Does it matter if your best friend is a crossdresser? How far will a father go when he realizes the truth about his son? This is a movie of change, growth and emotion, with characters and actors so real and fully developed that they pull your heart forth and place it firmly upon the screen. We literally feel the brittleness of judgement, the despair of lost hope, and the joy of acceptance.

It is easy to see why this small British film has won so many foreign awards and nominations, and I only hope it will be given the chance it deserves to inspire and transform US audiences as well.

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43 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

A Triumph of Highly Charged Storytelling

Author: Orson5 (mercury9630@hotmail.com)
7 December 2000

Billy Elliot is by far the most honestly told depiction of middle boyhood I've seen in years, if ever. I was in joyful tatters at the end of this story of a boy struggling to stay true to his calling in an anguished northern English mining town circa 1980. Every working class character in this film is written and uncompromisingly played with great love and understanding of both family and class hardship. Personally I view this film as the finest piece of British "intimiste" cinema I've seen since Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies". Yet it has epic elements as well. Billy's personal story unfolds while his home town is occupied by uniformed British strike control forces.

This is a tale of inter-masculine struggle in a family and mining town almost devoid of (and yearning for) a balancing feminine presence. Billy's gift is slowly awakened in this stressed and violent male crucible. His relationships with his brother, his father, his genderally confused classmate, and his teacher all grow increasingly charged as the movie develops. For honesty and presence, Jamie Bell as Billy far surpasses Haley Joel Osment's debut in The Sixth Sense. And if that's not enough, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis and Jamie Draven as Billy's teacher, dad and brother are all heartbreakingly portrayed. All are perfectly cast and at the very top of their form.

After all these characters have passed through the warzone of the first and second acts, director Steven Daldry delivers perhaps the most perfectly executed third act I have seen in a family centered drama from England or elsewhere. There are countless insightful decisions Daldry makes in the course of this film that other directors will study for years to come. But they're all brought to touching and masterful closure in the third act segments.

Kudos to scenarist Lee Hall for an excellent script. It should also be noted that many of DP Brian Tufano's beautifully composed shots match those of the great Chinese and Italian cinematographers. The film is brash in its musical style and forthright in its language. It is a film of specifics and the locale is not dressed up. And unlike many other local color films from England since 1985, this film has a strong, eminently compassionate narrative spine. Many audience members in the show I attended were immobilized and overcome in their seats during credits.

Despite frequent profanity, boys 11 and up should be allowed to see Billy Elliot, if only to keep them from abandoning hope. If it helps even one oppressed and confused boy keep an ear to the faint voice within that might just be his true calling, this film will have been worth every dollar spent in its making. A truly uplifting film.

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36 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful example of good quality writing, acting and art

10/10
Author: Ariel (asalzman) from Athens, Ohio
7 January 2001

Billy Elliot is a wonderful story of a young boy overcoming obstacles to participate in the one activity that takes him away from his troubled family life. By dancing, Billy unleashes his frustrations, yet also receives much criticism by participating in a less than macho sport. Every aspect of this movie was well done: the acting was superb, the characters were complex but believable, but the cinematography alone takes the cake. The cameras look at things from some very interesting and unusual views. Every shot was well planned out and every item in the background had importance.

This is one of the best movies I've seen recently and one that definitely shouldn't be missed by anyone that believes in following his or her dreams.

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