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Billy Elliot

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Billy Elliot

Starring: Julie Walters, Jamie Bell
Director: Stephen Daldry
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Beginning with an exuberant title sequence, this charming, off-beat, coming-of-age story revolves around Billy Elliot, the younger of two sons of a widower coal miner in Northern England. It's 1984, and the miners are engaged in a long, bitter strike. Following the family tradition, Billy is expected to learn boxing at the Everington Boys Club where, instead, the 11 year-old becomes enthralled by the girls' dancing class, led by a chain-smoking teacher who recognizes his raw talent. But when his macho father and rabble-rousing brother discover he's taking ballet lessons, they ridicule Billy ("Lads do boxing and football and wrestling, not friggin' ballet."), forcing him to hide his slippers under the mattress and sneak off to class. Then come the auditions for the Royal Ballet School and Billy's joyful, foot-stompin' "I Want to Boogie" sequence. What makes this heartfelt English import such a gem is the collaboration of writer Lee Hall, cinematographer Brian Tufano and director Stephen Daldry, who - despite the simplistic predictability of the plot - create eccentric, lovable characters and evocative imagery. As Billy, Jamie Bell embodies awkward determination, juggling grim reality with a surreal fantasy world. ("Just because I like ballet doesn't mean I'm a pouf!") As his father, Gary Lewis is tough-yet-tender, and Julie Walters scores as Billy's crusty yet compassionate teacher. Jamie Draven and Stuart Wells lend strong support with Jean Heywood touching as Billy's senile grandmother who recalls, "I could have been a professional dancer." While the bleak setting is reminiscent of "The Full Monty," the energetic mood evokes "Flashdance." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Billy Elliot" is an exhilarating 8. Combining comedy and poignancy, it's all about being yourself.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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