Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Billy Elliot - The Film (2000)

Although I had seen Billy Elliot when it first came out and really enjoyed it, I enjoyed it MUCH more this time. Isn't it amazing how at a different time of your life, a film or a book will strike you in a very different way? I was absolutely bawling last night (and alternately laughing-something the Brits do particularly well) and this is now one of my favourite films.

Just to jog your memory, a young boy whose mother has recently died is living with his miner father and brother (who are in the midst of the Thatcher era coal strike of 1984) and his occasionally lucid Grandma and is trying to find his way as an artistic soul in an industrial town in County Durham (Northern England).

When his father's preferred after school activity of boxing doesn't work out, he finds a dance class which suits his interests and abilities much better. However, boys doing ballet in the North of England in 1984 are like aliens walking down the High Street.

Jamie Bell is absolutely transfixing as young Billy. Jamie also grew up in County Durham in a single parent home, learning to dance with his mother and sister but having to hide the fact so as to avoid being called a "poof". He obviously channels this angst as well as his love of dance into this meaty role (he prefers tap to ballet however).

Julie Walters is fab as the all too real, cigarette puffing dance instructor who has her own issues to deal with. She received an Oscar nomination for this wonderful role.

Mrs. Wilkinson: This'll sound strange, Billy, but for some time now I've been thinkin' of the Royal Ballet School.
Billy: Aren't you a bit old, miss?
Mrs. Wilkinson: No, not me... you! I'm the bloody teacher!

The girl who plays Debbie, the dance teacher's daughter is absolutely hysterical.

Debbie: Dad did it with this woman from work but they don't think I know. 
Billy: So what about your mother? Does she have sex?
Debbie: No, she's unfulfilled. That's why she dances.
Billy: She dances instead of sex? Your family's weird! 

Gary Lewis couldn't get any better as the crusty miner pining for his wife and trying to do what is best for his son.

Billy: So, what's it like, like?
Dad: What's what like?
Billy: London.
Dad: I don't know, son. I never made it past Durham.
Billy: Have you never been?
Dad: Why would I want to go to London?
Billy: It's the capital city!
Dad: Well, there are no mines in London.
Billy: Jesus Christ, is that all you think about?

Billy: Just because I like ballet doesn't mean I'm a poof, you know.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this for a while, it's a great "evening in" film. If you have never seen it, you are in for a treat. A few things to note:

1. The accent takes a few minutes to tune your ear to. Don't get discouraged in the first few minutes of the film (or just put the closed captioning on).

2. There is a bit of swearing in Billy Elliot. It is rated R for this reason, so if you are sensitive to this, beware.

3. The word "fanny" means a slightly different area of the nether region in England than it does in North America!

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