Billy Elliot (2000)

BILLY ELLIOT, a perfectly enjoyably overlong British dance drama, 
stars Jamie Bell as an 11 year-old widowed miner's son who, well, 
wants to learn ballet.  Boxing lessons are a bust, but the tutus 
on the other side of the gym intrigue him, a curiosity which ex-
pectedly freaks his thick-headed, thicker-accented father.  (It's 
"for girrrrrls" actor Gary Lewis growls.)  The troupe's kind, col-
orfully gruff instructor (Julie Walters) takes pity on him, howev-
er.  Soon she's giving private lessons and, later, presses for an 
audition with the Royal Ballet School.  And you can pretty much 
take it from there-- the rest of the film involving the aforemen-
tioned audition, a couple eventual attitude adjustments, and at 
least one violent incidence of violence as foreshadowed by all 
those fleeting shots of police officers in riot gear.  (The story 
is set against the backdrop of a 1984 coal-miner's strike.)

For the first hour, the Thatcher-era import is a darn near-perfect 
concoction-- the sunny space of the practice floor a fab contrast 
to Billy's cramped, claustrophobic, working-class home (complete 
with senile grandmother); the lead actor's believable physical 
grace (and he sure is fit, isn't he?); and the occasional stunning 
screen composition, like that two-second shot of a small, supple 
cemetery before a square series of industrial buildings.  Director 
Stephen Daldry (who?) also delivers an adorable montage of the ti-
tle character practicing behind closed doors at home-- see: bath-
tub, water, splash-- as well as one very witty juxtaposition of 
practice steps opposite a moving mob of strikers.  Smashing. 
Equally appealing is the music, notably a half-dozen unobtrusively 
well-placed (period) pop songs, plus excerpts a-plenty from Peter 
Ilyich Tchaikovsky's soaring "Swan Lake" score.  Too bad the *spo-
ken* sounds suck.  As with that earlier aural pain THE FULL MONTY,
the heavily-accented dialogue rates about 65% on the ol' Intelligi-
bility Meter (IM).  Even worse-er is the film's increasingly draggy
feel that turns the second hour into a bit of a sit.  Nor is blood
to the bum helped by a tone that skirts a sort of... joyous slap-
stick, which, itself in turn, feels at painful odds with the story's
more-serious side.  Not to mention leaving the viewer horribly ill-
prepared for a bit of weepy melodrama between father and older son.
Yuck.  Don't think the predictably pleased crowds are gonna mind
much, though.  Nor any dancers in the house.  They understand all
too well already the necessity of motion as a means of expression.  
(Rated "R"/110 min.) 

Grade: B-

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros