“This Is It” and so much more!
By Michael Lewittes | 6:58 am, October 28th, 2009
Regardless of how you felt about Michael Jackson as a person, after seeing “This Is It,” you can’t help but feel he may have been the greatest performer of our time.
The sometimes skeptical Gossip Cop was lucky enough to attend the film’s first screening in New York, and was nothing short of blown away by Jackson’s first-rate performance.
Despite reports of him being deathly frail at the time of his passing, in the film Jackson appears remarkably in shape. Yes, he was very skinny, but no thinner than one would expect a perfectionist who rehearsed numerous dance numbers with precision accuracy day after day in anticipation of what would have been an elaborate and visually lush series of concerts.
“This Is it” ended up being a “rehearsal” film, but for someone who had 50 grueling performances ahead of him, Jackson practiced dance moves and sang with near full force, where others would have gone half throttle.
The film, which takes the viewer through Jackson’s scheduled numbers, begins with him performing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’’’ And right from the start you see that Jackson was onto “something,’” something big. He looks and moves great. He is vibrant, focused and having fun.
The audience is then introduced to his dancers, who are half of Jackson’s age, but with whom he dances – even during rehearsals – with full vigor. Around these dancers and his accompanying musicians, we get to witness Jackson’s commanding control and creativity. He softly proposes ways to choreograph certain moves, as well as to play specific chords.
We are also treated to the making of filmed pieces that were to have been incorporated into the concerts. Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” features black-and-white sequences in which Jackson was smoothly spliced into scenes with equally legendary stars Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart. And his zombie-themed “Thriller” comes to life via 3D movie magic and manually operated ghosts.
Those expecting to see a mask-wearing weirdo will instead see an unmasked Jackson, who seemingly has a genuine abundance of love – for his real family as well as for his stage family. After completing a Jackson 5 medley, the singer emotionally thanks all of his brothers, and adds, “Joseph and Katherine Jackson, I love you.”
Similarly, towards the end of the movie Jackson touchingly tells his entire cast and crew of musicians, dancers, and technicians, among others: “I love you all… We are family.”
Granted, “This Is It” is slickly edited, but throughout the film one is taken with how – whenever voicing the way he would like a particular dance move or piece of music performed – Jackson always suggests changes with patience and politeness. His criticisms are kind and carefully measured. He comes off more as a masterful director than a diva.
The film’s final number is a simple production of “Man in the Mirror,” which fittingly allows the viewer to reflect on the man and his music. And by the time the movie ends, the audience quite surprisingly cannot help but feel they’ve lost someone in their life. Maybe not related, but certainly remarkably talented.
With its limited engagement, Gossip Cop recommends you run – not moonwalk – to “This Is It.”