Plot: What’s it about?
Billy Elliot, like so many other movies, is one of those that you hear about time and again. It has “Oscar Buzz” and is generally considered to be a good film. Following a certain formula (that’s usually a shoo-in for a “hit” at the movies) is the story of one Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell). The story takes place in Northern England, a blue-collar town that is currently in the midst of a coal workers strike. They are striking against their union and in the meantime have nothing better to do than taunt and throw eggs at the “scabs” (the people who are working at the coal mine while the strike is going on). Billy lives with his father, brother and Grandmother in their house. The Dad, Jackie (Gary Lewis), and Brother, Tony (Jammie Draven) both are both currently unemployed and are part of the mob that is attacking the scabs on a daily basis. On top of all this, the family has just lost their mother (it never says how) and is coping with the death and her loss in their own ways. We see the town in many ways, and by the end we’re used to seeing armed guards with plexiglass shields line the streets. But all that is just the background. You see…Billy Elliot is all about the ballet!
Unlike here in America where kids play basketball, baseball or football (the American kind), up in England, sports like Boxing, Wrestling and Soccer are popular. As a daily activity, Billy goes down to the local gym where he boxes, or at least tries to. His mind is clearly elsewhere. Due to the economic status of the town, the girls ballet class has been moved to the other half of the gym where Billy and the other boys go to box. After class one day, Billy’s curiosity gets the best of him and he starts to watch the girls do their ballet. He is enthralled with it and starts to go on his own time, still under the guise of boxing mind you. As he is more and more taken with ballet, his teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) sees something special in him and decides that his “gift” might best be expressed at the Royal Academy of Ballet located in London. Up until now, Billy had been doing a good job of keeping his ballet “secret” from his unsupportive brother and father. However, upon Mrs. Wilkinson’s visit to Billy’s house, they all learn the truth and what Billy has really been doing.
It’s at this time when things start to change for Billy. His father, sometimes abusive, and certainly very unsupportive of most everything anyone does, has a change of heart. He swallows his pride and becomes a scab to get money to pay for a trip for Billy to go to London. It’s also at this time when the movie really takes off. Billy Elliot is a very odd, strange movie. Some of the subplots don’t seem to make sense to me. Billy and Mrs. Wilkinson’s daughter seem to be interested in each other, yet it’s never explored. Billy’s friend, Michael, is another strange child. He walks in on him dressed up in his sister’s dresses and wearing makeup. We later find out that he’s gay, or as they say…a “puffer”. Still, Billy Elliot has those certain areas of it that liken it to movies like “The Karate Kid” or “Rudy”. The movie is set in England and the dialects are so thick that it takes a bit of listening to make out everything that’s said. Still, the underlying theme is there and that’s what makes Billy Elliot worth watching.
Video: How does it look?
Billy Elliot is shown in an outstanding anamorphic transfer from Universal. The 1.85:1 image looks crisp and clean throughout and the way some of the shots are presented amazes me. The opening credits have a patterned wallpaper shown just out of focus with Billy jumping up and down in focus. It gives the movie a 3-D look of clarity that I haven’t seen in many other movies. Several shots are shown this way, with the background shown just out of focus and the main characters in focus, it’s seems to be a very simple technique, but the use of color and images leapt out at me. Billy Elliot isn’t without it’s faults, though. There were some specs of dust and minimal artifacting that I saw in some scenes, but overall it’s a nice-looking transfer. Some of the scenes appear to have a very saturated look to them as the skies of England tend to always be gray and gloomy. A nice transfer, on the whole.
Audio: How does it sound?
Billy Elliot is graced with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but unfortunately it only gets a chance to shine about four times during the movie. The dialogue is clean and clear (if you can decipher the thick accents, that is) and surround effects are present, though not pronounced. A few songs are played, which wakes up the speakers (and the movie), most notably when Billy says “I like to Boogie…”. The song plays and sounds very rich and vibrant. I would have liked to hear a bit more use out of the speakers throughout, but this mix is more than adequate. Don’t use Billy Elliot to show off your system, though!
Supplements: What are the extras?
Billy Elliot doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of extras, but the standard Production Notes, Cast Bios and a theatrical trailer are included. Also included is a featurette entitled “Billy Elliot: Breaking Free” which is a behind the scenes look at the movie and how the cast was assembled. It’s a nice touch to a satisfying movie. Also included are some DVD ROM links to the website and the featurette is also included there as well. All in all, give Billy Elliot a try, it looks great and sounds good. So…why not?