Talking Point: Is This It?

28 October 2009

michael jackson

We were expecting a lot from last night’s premiere of This is It: To be wowed by a big, schmaltzy, CGI-laden spectacle, to be spooked by Michael Jackson’s fragility in the midst of all the razzmatazz, to be absolutely knackered this morning (the premiere was broadcast simultaneously across the world, which meant the London leg took place at a school night-unfriendly 1am til 3am), maybe even to meet JLS on the red carpet. The one thing we didn’t anticipate was feeling this emotional afterwards.

We had mixed feelings about the film from the outset, and in some ways our worst fears were proved right. The film was simply footage from rehearsals, and it did seem, in places, a bit of a rush job. The excited razzmatazz of the celebrities and crowds at the premiere itself felt like the prologue to a cash cow, not a respectful tribute to the
end of a life. And yet, perhaps it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but we were moved. Rather than the glitzy schmaltzy extravaganza we had expected, the film was extremely low key and intimate, most of it focusing on MJ, on
stage, rehearsing. Even without an audience to cheer him on, his singing and dancing were breathtaking. Sure, he was incredibly thin, quietly spoken and prone to the odd slightly eccentric, childlike comment. But he seemed extremely involved in every aspect of the show and came across as a real perfectionist with an unshakeable creative vision. When he performed, it was almost as we remembered him in the good old days.

He even dressed the part. In the past decade we’ve only seen him looking bizarre – sitting in wheelchairs, wearing bizarre face masks – but thanks to the clever choices of Italian Vogue’s Rushka Bergman, who styled Michael for the cover of L'Uomo Vogue in October 2007 and later became his personal stylist, he looked like a star. From Balmain sharp-shouldered jackets to gold sequined trousers by Alessandro Dell’Acqua, he looked young and modern while reminding us of his glory days. All this, set to a backdrop of unforgettable songs like Billie Jean, Human Nature and Beat It meticulously arranged by the best musicians in the business – MJ’s voice still strong and soulful – and we couldn’t help but be won over.

After all, we were all MJ fans as children and teens, but when the child abuse allegations and bizarre public behaviour took over, we kind of forgot about his talent. Indeed, when the tickets for his concert were released, we didn’t even think about attending. We were convinced the concert would be a sad car crash. If This is It – which hinted at what the show would have been, with clips from CGI dancers as well as Michael looking pretty fabulous on stage – is to be believed, it would have been the greatest spectacle the O2 had ever seen. Which is perhaps the final heartbreaking chapter to the Michael Jackson story.

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