Michael Jackson's This Is It(2009)
- RatedPG /GenreDocumentary, Musical
In this tribute movie which shows the concert that never was, we see the little-seen, older Michael Jackson who was still tearing up the stage at the age of 50.
In fact, Michael Jackson described his planned blockbuster 50-concert tour, the one he was rehearsing before he died in June, as his 'final curtain call'. He sounded weary saying this in This is It, a behind-the-scenes documentary based largely on the gruelling rehearsals for the tour that never was.
Clues about Jackson's fragile health are littered throughout this film directed by Kenny Ortega, who was to have directed the concerts. But let's put whispers or judgements aside for now.
This is It is an effortlessly enjoyable, emotional, poignant and oftentimes revealing tribute movie for the late pop legend; it offers kudos to Jackson and his team for the ultimately futile hard work put in, and may serve as some sort of closure for fans still coming to terms with his departure.
This would be their last chance to get close to their fallen hero, all for the price of a movie ticket.
With the soundtrack it had, containing many of Jackson's signature tunes, reaching back into this Jackson 5 days, through Thriller and Earth Song, there was no way this film would fail to entertain.
For anyone wondering, at age 50, Jackson still had the voice (though seemingly weaker) and the moves. Long tracts of the film are just sequences mixed from various rehearsal sessions, with Jackson in various costumes, including trademark gold sequinned pants, singing and dancing with varying degrees of intensity-sometimes with worrying effort.
But the film succeeds most thrillingly for the way it is able to show facets of Jackson that had been hitherto unseen. In middle age, Jackson was still child-like; witness him at rehearsal with a lollipop; his unadulterated joy in performing, even just for concert insiders; and his titter at a musician's expression to 'put more booty' into a tune.
Most fascinating are the close-up views of Jackson the consummate professional and perfectionist. Credit to the filmmakers that this isn't an all-smiles homage. Jackson would speak out in frustration over technical glitches and mistakes, and chide his collaborators in his own gentle but firm way. It's eye-opening how he phrases instructions: 'Keep it simpler' or 'Let it simmer' or something along the lines of throwing more 'love' into it.
In recent years, much of Jackson's life has been shrouded in mystery and controversy. He had been a virtual recluse before starting work on this tour. This film only shows Jackson at work, but it shows him in his element. Show business has been inextricable in his life, and one could see how much life-force it gave him, even if it contributed to his eventual demise.
When he isn't wearing a jacket, it's clear how frightfully thin Jackson was. Sad to say, his wizened appearance had a Hollow Man-quality to him, which in turn makes his stage prowess even more impressive. Doubts linger if he would have lasted the rigours of touring.
All in all, this is a fitting send-off for the Gloved One.
Is it exploitative? Hard to say, but one doesn't get that vibe. If nothing else, the film helps frame Jackson as one who should be remembered for his once-in-a-generation talent, despite his foibles, and dispels any last thoughts of him as a stricken, fallen man.
In many people's minds, he will always be singing and dancing, overjoyed.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III (1990).