If you're a Micheal Jackson diehard, prepare to be thrilled — and heartbroken yet again. This Is It, the new documentary created from film footage of Michael Jackson's rehearsals at the Staples Center and Culver Studios in advance of what was supposed to be his final 50-show run in London, provides ample evidence that the self-proclaimed King of Pop was wide-awake, pretty much intact and still smooth as butter on the dancefloor. They should use it as evidence at the murder trial, because it offers the portrait of a man that most definitely is not on death's door — even if we never see behind the curtain and into his private struggles.
The film, which had its press premiere tonight at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, was produced by the Michael Jackson estate and LA-based concert promoter AEG Live, the company that was financing Jackson's London gigs. It was directed by Kenny Ortega, who was Jackson's creative director for the gigs. So understand that this is the cleanest, most positive spin on the last days of Michael.
Let the white-washing begin!
But it's also an often exciting piece of work showcasing a once-in-a-lifetime entertainer. Evidence? We see Michael spinning to “Wanna Be Starting Something,” roboting to “Bad” and doing all that insanely fluid MJ stuff during “Billie Jean.” We see the remarkable sets, the 3-D graphics, the team of dancers. We hear that voice channel “Human Nature” and our heart breaks at that beautiful, amazing instrument, something all the plastic surgeons in Beverly couldn't fuck up expressing the dynamics that sold a zillion records and touched a billion hearts.
It's still there. Jesus is it still there. Yes, he's a little rickety. But he was 50. That anyone could move like he does — at any point in a lifetime — is a wonder. We see it over and over again. We see him as an artist with a little bit of a temper, watch him giggle and growl, snicker and sneer. We hear his humor. When he has trouble with his ear phones, which he says feel “like a fist shoved in my ear,” he patiently and with a frustrated smile on his face say, “I'm trying to adjust my inner ears …. with love.” We see him shoot a Tommy gun at Humphrey Bogart. We see him in front of a retro '70s J5 backdrop while doing “I Want You Back” (!).
We pay witness to Michael as a musician, as a boss, as an actor, as an insistent taskmaster. Watch him jump out of a window! Duet with Judith Hill. Wonder at his outfits. Be shocked at what manly hands he had. Watch his loafers glide across the floor. We see him not as a God, a child molester or a helpless, drug addicted wreck, but as an artist, as a force of nature, and, above all, a dancer. Those moves, those razor-sharp robotic joints that collapse into cream, those feet that utilize all 52 bones — it's all here. Gasp with wonder. Ache with loss. You probably will a dozen times.