Billy Elliott (Stephen Daldry, 2000)
[originally posted 26Nov2001]
The surprise hit of 2000, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Daldry throws scene after scene of unmitigated emotional manipulation at us without ever really bothering to connect them. Plotlines begin and disappear (mostly to accentuate points of character; it’s easier and more effective to do so without introducing subplots you don’t plan to do anything with), characters are developed and then never realized, ambiguity reigns in areas where definition cries out for exposure, and the soundtrack is a horrid mishmash of songs that may have been appropriate where they were, had the movie’s subject matter been about the same things as the songs were (most notably The Clash’s “London Calling,” which lent a great deal of weight to what was, at best, a minor scene).
As with Cast Away (ONE word, not two…), a director took a fine cast of characters and refused to let them come through. The most heartbreaking example of this is Debbie (Nicola Wilson in her screen debut), the daughter of Billy’s dance teacher and a possible love interest– until she disappears from the movie without any explanation. Could have been much, much better than it was. **