Few films have the audience clapping at the end. Michael Jackson’s swansong, “This Is It,” is one of those few.
Not that the film is anywhere near as good as Elizabeth Taylor’s slightly overzealous reaction (“the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen”) would have us believe. No, the applause comes more out of respect for a man who has left an indelible white-gloved thumbprint on the music world.
Punted as both a testament to Jackson’s legacy and a heart-stirring gift for his fans, concert promoters AEG Live (denied an estimated $450 million return from a tour that never was) and Sony Pictures have selflessly patched together footage from rehearsals earlier this year and created an entertaining, and occasionally inspired, movie-going experience.
While the sentimental, pro-Jackson agenda behind the editing of the footage serves to elevate the artist to a God-like status, the rehearsal nature of the footage offers the audience the rare opportunity to see Jackson in normal human mode, minus the dazzling costumes and showmanship.
In fact, while it is curiously satisfying to see Jackson – in an ill-fitting bomber jacket and scuffed shoes – rehearse his moves like every other artist, it is strangely disappointing to learn that he indeed had a capacity for normality and he wasn’t the fulltime, supernatural ‘wacko’ the media has projected for the past 30-some-odd years.
Yes, Jackson needed to rehearse. And, yes, he had a voice coach. And, yes, at times he looked frail with – dare I say it? – antiquated, robotic dance moves that his back-up dancers all copied with ease.
But as the film progresses, viewers realize that Michael wasn’t even giving 30 percent. Skeptics will perhaps suggest it was because deep down he knew he wasn’t going to make the live tour. The truth, more likely, is that Michael Jackson was saving himself for going live. Now that would have been worth watching!