Michael Jackson's This Is It
It’s an emotionally exhausting picture. My wife cried on and off throughout. The movie doesn’t reach for your heartstrings, it just goes there naturally. The dancers talking about their gratitude for this opportunity; Michael matter-of-factly talking through the people that mean the most to him; the end credit dedications. You don’t miss the water till the well is gone, and this unfinished artifact that would have rocked the entertainment world removes the smirk that often accompanied Michael calling himself The King of Pop. That was a title he earned.
Some are complaining about the “disappointing” grosses this weekend, but how do they compare to the recent Rolling Stones concert movie directed by the great Martin Scorsese, or the 3-D U2 movie, or even the Jonas Brothers movie? Most concert movies don’t perform. Michael’s has, expectations aside.
I also really see Quincy Jones’ influence on Michael. The focus on love, on his musical perfectionism, his social consciousness….not that Michael didn’t have those things before, perhaps he did, but if you spend time with Quincy, you know how much those things are a part of him and the reflection in Michael was evident to me.
Michael’s voice still sounds great, even with him holding back in rehearsals. One of my disappointments in Michael was that he never had any choreographic breakthroughs after Thriller, but watching this film, I was impressed that a 50 year old man moved nonstop for pretty much the entire show. Doing truly original choreography for two hours is probably too much to ask for, and I wasn’t mad this time. As a side note, I was always amazed that people never called out Michael for not simply reviving an old dance with the moonwalk. I remember pretty much airbody doing at our senior graduation parties back in 1979. It couldn’t have just been us in East St. Louis, could it? Who else remembers it pre-Motown 25?
I spent the first part of the movie feeling very bad about Michael’s face. I’m actually relieved that the vitiligo story proved to be true, but the surgeries were tragic. With his imposing height, thin frame and large hands (never noticed those before) he looks like a love child of Mickey Mouse and Snow White. But I got over it as I focused on his personality and performance.
Michael didn’t look frail or sick to me. Given how vital those back up dancers are, the fact that he in any way kept up with kids half his age was impressive.
I love stories about the artistic process, and that’s what this is film is about. Kenny Ortega is not getting enough credit for putting together an amazing show, and an amazing movie. The pacing and style is great.
The blackness of Michael’s core collaborators was also striking. His choreographer, vocal leader, his musical director and much of the band are black (a smartly placed young female guitarist is the most prominent white member of the team). We know that Michael only chose the best, and it’s nice to see that the best was black.
Watching the film, I kept thinking about a generation of artists that would study this film endlessly on tour buses, trying to equal or top Michael’s magic. Michael keeps giving.
As I left the movie theatre and walked through the mall to my car, there were a half dozen young black kids in skinny jeans and acey ducey baseball caps trading “jerk” moves. And the beat goes on…what a perfect coda.