Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yes, Billy's gotta fly

When I saw Billy Elliot, one of my favorite scenes was the dream ballet between Billy and an older version of himself, played by ballet dancer Stephen Hanna. I especially loved the moment when the younger Billy takes flight.

Well, in this morning's New York Times, Charles Isherwood writes an entire article about how much he dislikes Billy's flying. (Although he loves the scene up until that point.) He calls it a "cynical manipulation" and a "glib crowd-seducing trick" designed to appeal to children brought up on a diet of video games and action movies.

I disagree. I don't think there's anything cynical about it at all. It's a beautiful way of showing us the strong, graceful, athletic man that this scrawny little boy will become. The whole musical, after all, celebrates the joy of movement.

Like I wrote in my review, my jaw literally dropped at the moment when Billy flies. To me, it's saying that ballet may be the closest thing we have to taking flight. Yes, it's a special effect designed to elicit "oohs" and "ahhhs." But I found it visually stunning and magical and I loved it. (And I don't own any video games or particularly like action movies.)

Plus, is it any less manipulative when Billy reads a letter from his deceased mother? That really got my tear ducts working. And if we weren't manipulated, what would be the point? After all, isn't that what art is supposed to do - to get a reaction out of us, to manipulate our emotions?

3 comments:

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Hey Esther. I can understand why Billy's flight is such a crowd-pleaser, but I didn't care for it. But it was for the fact that I could see the harness being attached in a very unmagical way.

Esther said...

Hey Steve. Yeah, I can understand why that would spoil the effect for you. When I saw Wicked, I didn't know how they made Elphaba fly in Defying Gravity, which definitely made it more magical for me.

SarahB said...

I loved the scene, but the harness was over the top.