Thoughts on ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It’

Posted by · 8:54 am · October 28th, 2009

Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson's This Is ItI was going to sit down and write a proper review of “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” but I hit a wall pretty fast.  I don’t know how to review something that was never meant to be a cinematic work of art.  It succeeds on so many levels but it also doesn’t aspire to a whole lot.

It is, at the end of the day, a serendipitously candid look at an entertainer creating, and as a Michael Jackson fan, I was thoroughly satisfied.  As a filmgoer, I found myself mentally assembling my grocery list.

No, the film isn’t boring.  And though it is a bit repetitive, it never fails to be at least modestly fascinating.  This is, after all, one of the most intimate looks we’ve had at one of the more elusive artists in popular culture.  And the surge of excitement you get from seeing a strong, limber, on-it-as-ever Jackson stick the moves and ratchet up the spectacle is affecting to say the least.

Gone is the frail, shrinking, ghostly image plastered across the tabloids or snapped swiftly by craven paparazzi.  Here is a man in command of a machine built to entertain.

To that end, “This Is It” is a remarkable study in the process of show, the sweat that goes into making something larger than life.  But I don’t know how to review it.  I will, however, let Roger Ebert speak for me when he notes the following in his four-star review:

It’s a portrait of Michael Jackson that belies all the rumors that he would have been too weak to tour. That shows not the slightest trace of a spoiled prima donna. That benefits from the limited number of cameras by allowing us to experience his work in something closer to realistic time, instead of fracturing it into quick cuts. That provides both a good idea of what the final concert would have looked like, and a portrait of the artist at work.

Never raising his voice, never showing anger, always soft-spoken and courteous to his cast and crew, Michael with his director, Kenny Ortega, micro-manages the production. He corrects timing, refines cues, talks about details of music and dance. Seeing him always from a distance, I thought of him as the instrument of his producing operation. Here we see that he was the auteur of his shows.

“This Is It” opens nationwide today and will run in theaters and IMAX for two weeks (until they inevitably bring it back…perhaps this isn’t it after all).

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5 responses so far

  • 1 10-28-2009 at 9:32 am

    mike said...

    havent seen it yet but like u Kris i was and still am a big MJ fan and am just glad 2 see at least one film critic treat him with respect instead of the snark we can usually expect when it comes 2 matters mj.

  • 2 10-28-2009 at 10:24 am

    Manbear said...

    Looking at Rotten tomatoes, This Is it is a hit with the critics

  • 3 10-28-2009 at 11:13 am

    Mike Ward said...

    I could not only help but think that had Michael Jackson provided even a small glimpse of what we see here previously, what wonders they might have done to his damaged public persona. Ever the showman, I was blown away by the clear genius so vividly on display.

  • 4 10-29-2009 at 8:20 am

    Ligaya said...

    Have to read Roger’s review. As pre-death casual & post-death (after learning more @ the artist/man) serious fans, my husband & I were blown away on all levels by Michael/TII.

  • 5 10-29-2009 at 8:24 am

    Ligaya said...

    I live in Oakland which has a sizeable African American cmty. & is very racially/culturally diverse. I don’t know if/how different the response would be elsewhere. I went to a regular & an IMAX screening. Both were cross-race & multi-generational from 1st graders to 70-somethings. People (not everybody, not for everything, not just for MJ) responded – clapping, calling out, laughing. I overheard an older black woman tell her friend after it ended, “I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster, and I’ve got to get off.”