I don’t know how anyone can watch that beautiful, impossibly gifted young child performing next to the sick, depressing weirdo that he grew up to be and not feel downright heartbroken.
The necrophiliac gravy train continues, as this hastily assembled cash-in cobbles together over 100 hours of poorly shot rehearsal footage from Michael Jackson’s ill-fated final 50-night London stand. Outdoing even that gaudy Staples Center funeral fiasco in terms of sheer for-profit effrontery, This Is It proclaims in a lengthy, sanctimonious opening credit crawl to be “for the fans.” What a happy coincidence then that it’s also a convenient way for these concert promoters to recoup some of the millions they lost when the King of Pop fled this mortal throne shortly before showtime.
As it’s all still just a rehearsal, Jackson ain’t singing much. He insists that he must “conserve his throat,” while some suspiciously sweetened background tracks don’t quite match the lip-sync. Alternating awkwardly between standard and hi-def video in variable aspect ratios, the furious editing of the piece and undeniably contagious power of those old melodies roused a crowd of the faithful to rapturous ovations at the matinee I attended.
Yet the whole thing just made me sad. MJ still had his moves, popping, locking and sometimes defying gravity with a simple glide across the stage. But this last waltz is such a mechanical, over-choreographed spectacle, drowning out the music with precision timed pyrotechnics, onstage bulldozers, 3-D movies, and even a computer-assisted, black and white machine gun battle against Humphrey Bogart.
He also looks awful—spindly and emaciated with distractingly gigantic hands and feet, peering out from behind his omni-present sunglasses with that creepily immobile, nose-less death-mask face. The few times Jackson is actually heard speaking in the movie, he comes off like someone you’d hide from on the subway, unable to articulate a simple request to lower the volume on his headphones without shrieking “There’s a fist in my ear!” Regular communication with fellow human beings was clearly impossible for him by this point.
The last straw for me was during the Jackson Five medley, when this ravaged Skeletor is glimpsed standing before oversized video projections of his much younger self, the soundtrack soaring with some of the most gloriously joyful pop music ever recorded. I don’t know how anyone can watch that beautiful, impossibly gifted young child performing next to the sick, depressing weirdo that he grew up to be and not feel downright heartbroken.
It’s a goddamn American tragedy. Let the poor bastard rest in peace. D+
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely