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Mainstream Chick with Greta Gerwig @Middleburg

This Is It

This Is ItThis Is It is what it is. And that’s what I like about it. There’s no foreshadowing. No hidden agenda. No real conflict. It’s simply a showcase for the phenomenal talent and musicality that was Michael Jackson. The documentary feels a bit draggy at times, but overall, it delivers what the filmmakers promised: a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the King of Pop as he prepared for a comeback/final concert series that was supposed to get underway in London this past July.

It’s impossible not to watch the movie through a morbidly curious lens… looking for hints about his health and stamina and mortality. But really, there are none. At 50, Jackson not only kept pace – he set the pace for backup dancers more than half his age. And it’s obvious that the dancers, musicians and other members of his creative support team absolutely revered him (especially when he rehearses his way through classics like Thriller, Billie Jean and Man in the Mirror). In fact, their moments of homage and deference provide some welcome flashes of humor and insight during the movie. Soft-spoken as he may have been, Jackson was very clear on what he wanted from every note of every song, every step along the way. As a viewer, it’s kind of cool to be a fly on the wall as that creative process unfolds.

Director-choreographer Kenny Ortega, as well as the film’s editors, did a rather masterful job trimming 120 hours of somewhat serendipitous footage into 111 minutes. The documentary chronicles the concert rehearsals that took place, with Ortega at the helm, from April to June of 2009. My guess is that Ortega is probably the only person who could have pulled off such a tastefully-done documentary on such a quick turn-around. I shudder to think about the biopics on the life and times of Michael Jackson that are sure to come down the cinematic pike in the years ahead.

Fans and foes have an eternity to debate Jackson’s personal quirks and demons and the circumstances of his untimely death. In the meantime, This Is It serves as a worthy tribute to Jackson’s musical legacy.

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