|By Mira Harber
you do a boy's sport - football, boxing or soccer?" This question is posed
by the harsh, coal-miner father of a young boy who loves to dance -
ballet, that is. Billy Elliot takes place in a depressed area in Northern
England where the local miners are on strike, and life can be dark and
As the film
opens, young Billy dutifully troops off to his weekly boxing lesson. Boxing
is a 'manly' sport his father wants him to learn - even though Billy is,
in the words of his boxing teacher,"A disgrace to the glove". The
boxing lessons are at one end of the gym -at the other end, ballet classes
are taking place. Billy's heart and imagination are captured and
he quits boxing and joins the ballet class. For several months Billy's
dad knows nothing of this, and when both his dad and brother find out,
there's hell to pay.
This is the
world that equates ballet & the arts with 'poufters' (homosexuals).
Throughout, Billy is questioned "You're not a pouf are you?". The answer,
of course, is no - but it's not so simple to be pursing one of the fine
arts in a coal-mining town.
The dance teacher
who recognizes Billy's tremendous potential, is played by Julie Walters
(famous for the '83 film Educating Rita). She's a chain smoking, gruff
character - but beneath her prickly exterior lies a true teacher, willing
to give her all to an especially promising, young student.
Billy's Dad (Gary Lewis)
swings from being a brute of a man at the beginning of the movie, to having
a begruding sympathy for his son's dreams, to total support (he is willing
to become a scab/strike-breaker to help his son gain HIS dream).
This is a pretty
unlikely scenario, as is the fact that while young Billy's best friend
is in the process of discovering who he is (and that includes cross-dressing!),
Billy isn't bothered by this fact in the least. Billy is wise beyond his
years in many ways. In fact, in many ways, this movie plays like a fantasy
rather than the 'realistic' film it first appears to be.
Bell) is a cheeky, high-spirited boy with a wonderful twinkle in his eye.
He is a terrific dancer, and it is a pleasure to watch the choreography
in this movie, which is a cross between Stomp, Gregory Hines & Fred
Astaire all rolled up into a very talented 11 year old boy. He gives an
entirely believable, and extremely enjoyable performance.
The music in
Billy Elliot suits the visuals to a tee - when you hear"We Have to Boogie"
- you feel like getting up and dancing in the aisle yourself.
This is the 'feelgood' movie
of the season - forget the overproduced new version of the Grinch Who Stole
Christmas - and see Billy Elliot instead - you'll be glad you did.
would be great for teenagers /kids near Billy's age, but the movie received
an 'R' rating for language!, for the use of the F- word. Considering that
this film takes place in a coal mining town, and that is undoubtedly how
they speak, not to mention that most teenagers have heard that and much
more, it' s a shame that anyone younger than 17 will have to wait for the
video to catch this little gem.
At the NorthPark. (Mira