Billy Elliot (2000) (R)

There are so many movies about boys trying to break out from overbearing fathers. It's become a staple in dramas to the point where it's even mocked...take a scene from "30 Rock" for example. In the middle of the weirdest therapy session you've ever seen—and one of the funniest—a character screams out in a racist impression to their sort-of-father: "I only act out because I need your love". This line exemplifies the views people have on the subject of son-father relationships in dramas such as "Billy Elliot".
The tensions are usually exacerbated in situations where the mother is not present (check), being a "man" is a big part of the son's upbringing (check), and any other stressful situations to add onto the straining communication (check). We see it in "My Left Foot" a little and even more in "Good Will Hunting" (on a side note, I'm apparently the only one who doesn't think that "Hunting" is that good); but I think "Billy Elliot" handles it the best of any film I've seen because it doesn't loose its characters. Sons are still sons and fathers are still fathers, they don't become hyperboles of themselves. Love is mixed in with the gruff mumbles and the backhands, it can't be separated.
Billy Elliot (a young Jamie Bell) is an eleven year-old boy growing up in Durham in 1984. The mines are being closed and riots are breaking out in protest. Billy is sent to school and for recreational activity, he gets to box...because that's what boys do.
One day, the gym has to be shared with a ballet school, and Billy's interest is piqued. There's something about dancing that he loves...but we never really see that.
It wasn't intentional that the movie I saw before seeing this one was "Pina"...but it does leave a high watermark for any other "dance movie". "Pina" is obsession with dance, the heartbeat of artists—"Billy Elliot" is about family.
Needless to say, I would have liked to know more about why Billy was drawn to ballet, other than the freeing feeling he gets from it.
Billy meets the ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters in an Oscar nominated role) who is the perfect character for the movie. She's reminiscent of other mentors from other movies; but completely her own person. She doesn't try to pressure Billy into dancing, but when he makes it clear that he wants to dance...she demands he commit to it.
Billy is ashamed of dancing because it's not what his father wants him to in that sense "Billy Elliot" is a coming of age story. It's about being an individual and making your own decisions...and it's too fluffy for its own good.
It's sentimental to a fault and it's full of awkward moments; but in the end, it is emotionally fulfilling.
Stephen Daldry's visual style is impeccably beautiful and full of class—it aids the film greatly. "Billy Elliot" is very easy to like.
Some parts of the movie bite off more than they can chew...the idea of every male dancer being gay is brought up and the film tries to handle homosexuality in its own way—it fails. I would have liked it better if there had been a smarter script that implied things instead of spelling them out.
The end scene is all sorts of ridiculous, but it's effective in its own way.
I think that, in the end, the movie is a great success because it tells a story, makes a connection, and leaves the viewer pleased—what more do you want?

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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