| Billy Elliot (2000) |
Billy Elliot is an eleven year-old boy living in a tough, blue-collar town in Northern England and he's just gotta dance. His boxing class shares a gym with a dance class and the moment he sees the dancing, he is hooked. Secretly he spends the 50 pence his father gives him on dance lessons instead of boxing lessons.
Billy Elliot, played by Jamie Bell is an expressive and endearing character. This is Jamie's breakout role in which he really shines.
Dancing allows Billy to express what is in his heart and his talent is impressive. But as we all know, the narrow-minded, Neanderthal men of Northern England are completely against male dancers and believe that they are all gay. This is a sort of "Flash Dance" meets "The Full Monty", but the stereotypes are much stronger and narrowly defined, and that is what bothers me about this film.
Billy's dad is…you guessed it, a violent wife beating, son beating, drunk. The film slowly works its way through just about every negative stereotype about men, finishing with mooning and drunken, outdoor peeing in bushes. Every male character in the film was portrayed very negatively, except Billy, who is just a boy and who is struggling to reject the "male culture" that is all around him. A male friend of Billy's is also portrayed in a positive way because he is gay. The women characters, such as Billy's dance teacher (Mrs. Wilkinson) are portrayed as kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and even assertive.
The film is like one long ethnic/gender joke portraying all men of Northern England as pathetically ridiculous and contemptable. Just as the coal mining and heavy industry of cities like Manchester and Liverpool is declining and becoming obsolete, the subtext of the film tries to prove that maleness itself is in decline and becoming obsolete leading to a sense of despair in men.
Billy finds a way out of this hopeless maleness by embracing his feminine side while seeking female allies to guide him in his journey.
Despite the predictability and barfability created by the bigoted subtext, there were many emotional and heartwarming moments, in which I rooted so strongly for Billy, that I was nearly in tears. Jamie Bell creates such an openhearted, endearing character that if he didn't succeed in the end as dancer, there would be riots in every theatre.
In many ways it is a beautiful film that will stop your heart at times and will then take it to complete exhilaration. But anti-male stereotypes are strongly promoted throughout the film. If you decide to see it, you will need a bunch of tissues for you eyes and a couple of vomit bags too.
- Reviewed by Paul G.