Ballet.co Postings Pages

 Some Special Threads:
  GPDTalk about George Piper Dances ! NEW !
  NBTTalk about Northern Ballet Theatre
  SBTalk about Scottish Ballet
  ENBTalk about English National Ballet
  BRBTalk about Birmingham Royal Ballet
  TodaysLinks - worldwide daily dance links
  Ballet.co GetTogethers - meetings and drinks...

  Help on New Postings

Subject: "Billy Elliot : first impressions" Archived thread - Read only
  Previous Topic | Next Topic
Printer-friendly copy     Email this topic to a friend    
Conferences What's Happening Topic #971
Reading Topic #971

02-10-00, 05:37 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Helen Click to send private message to Helen Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
"Billy Elliot : first impressions"
   I saw Billy Elliot on Saturday. Could it live up to the hype? Well, I don't know whether it will for the general public, though I suspect it will. But I do know that I cried more than I have at anything for ages. Jamie Bell's portrayal of the inarticulate, puzzled Billy, a boy on the brink of adolescence, is extraordinarily touching - just an ordinary boy who has come into contact with a force (dance) that he doesn't fully understand and can't explain, but that changes his life and that of those around him.

The entire cast is excellent. Julie Walters is a wonderfully jaded ballet teacher - I do hope teachers like her don't exist! I also liked the little girl, Nicola Blackwell, who plays Debbie, Walters' dancing daughter who strikes up a friendship with Billy. It's quite a small part, but beautifully done.

There are faults. The portrayal of the RBS audition is inaccurate, and possibly a bit unfair, though I think the clash of cultures is genuine enough. I was touched by the attempts of the middle class boy at the audition to communicate with Billy when he says he comes from County Durham. "Durham? Isn't there a nice cathedral there?" "Dunno," says Billy, "Never been". He had never before been out of his mining village. The father's conversion to ballet struck me as a bit sudden, as did Billy's transformation into Adam Cooper at the end - I found this unconvincing, as there is very little facial resemblance. I came out wishing they had told us something about Billy's time at the RBS, and the effect it had on his relationship with his family - by this time I was thinking of Billy as a completely real person, which is quite a compliment to Jamie Bell, and the scriptwriter and director. The ballet content is quite slight; the film is about prejudices,presumptions and aspirations, not ballet.

I believe that the story is based in part on the life of Philip Mosley of the RB, and one of the papers mentioned a likeness to the story of Kenneth Macmillan. I think there are also echoes of Nureyev's early life, in the secret lessons, the uncomprehending father, and the culture shock of the ballet school.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions eugene merrett 03-10-00 1
     RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions Fuzzyface 04-10-00 2
         RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions Fuzzyface 20-10-00 3
             RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions Ann Welsh 20-10-00 4
                 RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions AnnWilliams 20-10-00 5

Conferences | Topics | Previous Topic | Next Topic
eugene merrett

03-10-00, 04:00 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail eugene%20merrett Click to send private message to eugene%20merrett Click to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions"
In response to message #0
   I wanted to like Billy Elliot but whilst I found in enjoyable in the main it was disappointing. The first hour or so was truly kitchen sink drama of the silliest kind. This young lad lives in squalor with a crude father and elder brother. There is no tenderness or affection. Instead there is a lot of swearing and it seems that all disputes are settled with fists! I would of thought the Social Services would have been deeply concerned at what goes on this household . Naturally his father is quite aghast at his lad doing ballet as it is for "poufs" only. It is a depressing picture of working class family life which underscore Nye Bevan view of the "poverty of aspiration" which blight these people. But I am not sure if this is true. Miner earned above average wages before the strike and they lived in cheap houses close to where they worked. I am not convinces that many miners home had outhouses and that they never ventured outside their locale.

The film does not adequately explain how Billy gets into ballet. One day he is boxing the other day he is doing ballet. It also does not deal with how he coped with the inevitable ragging he would receive at school from the other kids. The few shots we have of his school days show lots of well behaved boys and girls listening to a teaching giving a geology lesson. If only my "posh" school was like this! There was one student at my school who kept it secret that his father was an administrator at the National Ballet of Canada

But the most serious shortfall is the miraculous conversion of his father and militant brother to ballet. It happens almost overnight. Less convincing is the the conversion of his militant brother (who had plans to bring a hammer to the picket line). Prior to his miraculous conversion the only words he has for his brother is "##### off!". One day both parent and brother are insanely opposed to Ballet, then suddenly they are completely won over as if they were never against in the first place.

These omission result in the film lacking depth. The result is a comparatively lightweight film about triumph over adversity. It is a feel good film but little more then that.

The actor who paid Billy was very impressive. He really got into the part. Most child actors tend to wooden but he was as natural as any professional actor. I cannot comment on the quality of his dancing but it did not look that overwhelming. So if you are looking for "Red Shoes - the sequel" look elsewhere.

Undoubtedly the most memorable role is Julie Walters as Billy's no nonsense ballet teacher. But she is not convincing as teacher All she does is bark at her student, never gives them any encouragement. As a former teacher of accountancy myself who was not adverse to swearing at my students, I always made sure my students were told if they had done well (even if sometimes they had not) to encourage them. My limited experience tells that students quickly get demoralised if they are not encouraged. The comparisons with ballet and accounting are appropriate as both require a lot amount of endless repetitious exercises which have to drilled into students until they get it right!

Overall the film was good for its happy ending but it lacked any real depth or perception. I am afraid it is not another Red Shoes. I cannot see this film doing well in the U.S but then again stranger things have happen! Look at the Full Monty!

  Printer-friendly page | Top

04-10-00, 12:55 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Fuzzyface Click to send private message to Fuzzyface Click to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions"
In response to message #1
   Eugene, I haven't seen "Billy Elliot" yet but I have to say that from your description, the mining community portrayed in the film sounds very authentic to me. Members of my family were involved in the 1984 Miners Strike (but in South Wales), and they did live in very close knit, very insular communities. Their idea of a good night out was to go to the local Working Men's club for a drink and bingo (still is in fact). My family did have an indoor loo, but I can quite believe that some people still had outhouses. They also used their gardens to grow vegetables rather than flowers. They were not rich by any means. What I remember most from that time is the desperation of the community fighting to save their livelihoods. It was an awful time for many working class people in those big state industries, and there really was no other kind of work for the men at that time. What I just wanted to say really was that life was very GRIM for the mining communities then, and if the film does portray that, it's a good thing.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

20-10-00, 03:41 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Fuzzyface Click to send private message to Fuzzyface Click to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions"
In response to message #2
   I've seen the film now, and I have to say that it was the "ballet scenes" that were the least authentic. I wonder how many ballet schools actually had all their pupils in little white tutus? Mine certainly didn't. Although I enjoyed the film immensely, I did think the ballet side of things a bit of a cliche. Oh, and what about the pop music?! I can't remember many young kids listening to Marc Bolan in those days - that would have been so old fashioned!

  Printer-friendly page | Top
Ann Welsh

20-10-00, 04:36 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Ann%20Welsh Click to send private message to Ann%20Welsh Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
4. "RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions"
In response to message #3
   Although I loved the film and Jamie Bell's performance in particular, there were some weird anomalies towards the end. Who, in their right mind, would send an 11-year old off by himself on a very 90's National Express bus to find his way to White Lodge. Why, after presumably 10+ years training/company experience and finally Billy's star appearance in AMP's Swan Lake, did his dad and brother turn up looking no older than they did 10 years ago? Poetic license I suppose?

  Printer-friendly page | Top

20-10-00, 08:03 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail AnnWilliams Click to send private message to AnnWilliams Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
5. "RE: Billy Elliot : first impressions"
In response to message #4
   Ann - As regards your last point, some attempt was made to 'age' Billy's dad by lightly dusting his face with flour, apparently. And about that last scene, what on earth was Billy's now grown-up friend wearing on his head? He seemed to be wearing some sort of black bonnet but the lighting was such that you couldn't make it out.

I agree with the point about the 'ballet' scenes being the least successful, and I have to say that I found the whole film both sentimental and shallow, which I think was the fault of the writing rather than anything else because the acting and directing were excelent. On whe whole, though, I thought it was very enjoyable and it didn't seem to drag at all and I'd recommend it for sheer entertainment (at least, I wouldn't *not* recommend it, if that makes sense!).

  Printer-friendly page | Top

Conferences | Topics | Previous Topic | Next Topic

Questions or problems regarding this bulletin board should be directed to Bruce Marriott