This Is It (2009)
This Is It, gracefully guided and directed by Kenny Ortega, should be seen as a film documenting the preparations for a big starís comeback show, and not a filmed version of these preparations made because of the starís sudden and unexpected death. The fact that the investors chose to rush the release of this film to cover their expenses following a cancelled show, has nothing to do with why and how this footage was shot in the first place. Because This Is It is a documentary, a musical documentary, and not a concert movie. And it is a documentary of a large-scale musical, artistic and technical process in which great talents assemble to create and rehearse what was supposed to be Michael Jackson's great comeback. Jackson himself is naturally the centre of attention, like he always was wherever he wandered. And it is a vigorous 50-year-old we see at work here, not at all a sick and dying man. Sure, he doesn't boast the explosive force he did when he was in his 20s or early 30s. And yes, he restrains himself both when it comes to the singing and the dancing. But the most interesting aspect of This Is It is to see a man doing his job - a man doing what he was arguably born to do. And his level of expertise is striking; this is a man who breathes music and choreography, and who knew exactly what he wanted. The well-portioned "behind-the-scenes" footage is among this film's most valuable assets.
In contrast to all the rumours and peculiarities associated with Jackson over the years, This Is It shows a remarkably regular man. Thatís a pleasant surprise, because although this film isnít one of those "the truth about" documentaries (fortunately, one should say; after all this is a documentary of people in a professional environment), Ortega does capture some glimpses about how Jackson was on an interpersonal level: likeable, constructive, humorous and determined.
This Is It certainly wonít be an adequate substitute for attending the concerts which the world now will never see, but there are glimpses of some impressive film and stage concepts and musical arrangements. The music captured is of a very high technical level, and the film has value also on a pure musical level. Jacksonís singing is often beautiful, occasionally impressive, and at times below par. His dancing is constantly assured, and while his energy level is not the same as his backup-dancers, his rhythm and feel was second to none until the very end. An end which only appears more tragic in light of This Is It. Whatever troubled the great artist when he went home after the sessions, and whatever his inner demons led him to do, there is no doubt in my mind that during the sessions recorded in This Is It, he was a happy and spirited man.