Stephen Daldry is lucky. He’s earned three Oscar nominations for each of his three films. I don’t think anyone has ever gone three for three in terms of direction; so regardless of your thoughts on The Reader, The Hours or Billy Elliot [The Dancer] the man has to have some modicum of talent.
Billy Elliot is the lightest of Daldry’s films but that doesn’t make it any less good than the others. I suppose the emotional weight of the story may have been lost with the recent commercialism of its Broadway adaptation, but Billy Elliot is nice little film that somehow managed to earn a few Oscar nominations for itself. It tells the story of the eponymous Billy who becomes a ballet dancer despite the obvious obstacles to this goal. Like so many films of its type, it’s not the actual story per se that makes Billy Elliot original. It’s the treatment of the story and the good dialogue and acting that make it something of a treasure.
2000 was a good film year. Coming off the embarrassment of riches that was 1999 [a tough act to follow], it had some impressive pieces. Gladiator may not have been my favourite, but it was triumph, say what you wish about Soderbergh but that one two punch of Traffic and Erin Brockovich was enviable. Chocolat knew its audience, if nothing else. And that’s not even getting into the game changers like Dancer in the Dark, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Almost Famous and underrated gems like Before Night Falls and Quills. Still Billy Elliot, not necessarily the best of the lot, was the one with the most heart.
I always marvel at Julie Walter’s nomination. Along with Marcia Gay Harden it’s anyone’s bet what had Oscar giving them nominations. But I am glad that they did because like Gay Harden ,Julie Walters is quite effective in Billy Elliot. A throwaway role? Probably. But not any less good because of it. I can’t offer up an unbiased view of 2000’s actor line-up but it’s a pity that Jamie Bell couldn’t get an Oscar nomination, although I suppose that would be asking too much.
Billy Elliot is #94 on my list of favourites. Though I’ve never been disappointed with either of Daldry’s subsequent efforts I’d like to see him tackle a comedy again.
Were you a fan of Billy Elliot? Or do you prefer Daldry's later efforts?