"This Is It" treated Michael Jackson's fans to an intimate journey with the late star in his final months in preparation for a spectacular show.
Some of the movie's most touching moments were of hearing Jackson sing a cappella—his voice still exactly the same piercing, perfect sweetness it had always been even without any music or sound effects or background singers.
The audience laughed out loud at his quick sense of humor and the way he "lovingly" demanded perfection of all those around him.
If you have never seen a master at his craft, then watch this movie and you will. At one point during a Smooth Criminal rehearsal Jackson had to cue the band in unison with a video playing in the background. Since the screen was behind him the director Kenny Ortega warned Jackson that he wouldn't be able to see when the video changed. Jackson simply replied, "That's ok. I'll just have to feel it". Then he went on to do the cue blind (and perfectly of course).
And there were other, smaller things. Things we never knew. Like how polite he was—throughout the film he automatically replied "God bless you" or "Thank you" whenever anyone did something for him. It was the kind of intimate detail, a natural habit, a relic of good home training which had stuck with him throughout his life, that provided a glimpse into Michael Jackson's true person. He was also firm and unrelenting in his insistence on perfection in every detail of each performance. But he delivered his critiques patiently and lovingly to all those around him.
In a jam session for The Way You Make Me Feel Jackson left no room for error as he stated unequivocally to the band, "I want to hear it the way I wrote it." While he ran effortlessly through the vocals to the song his whole body strained and moved to the music. He seemed almost unable to sing without dancing, as if there could be no one without the other for him. You could virtually see the beat and the melody running through his arms and legs and exiting through his fingers and feet as he took on the song with his whole self.
Then, with his body-wracking music trip slowly subsiding Jackson directed the band to let the last vestiges of sound "simmer", to just let it "bathe in the moonlight", and somehow they knew exactly what he meant.
The crowd at the Atlanta screening I attended on the opening night was a lot smaller than I had anticipated. There were no sold out shows, no breathless fans standing outside clamouring for a ticket. But in the end, it was better that way. Because everyone that was there—at midnight on a Tuesday—was there out of sheer love, and you could feel that love all around.
This film left no doubt that if Jackson's final show had gone on it would have been a glorious success. For his fans that realization was bittersweet. Some cried. For 111 minutes he was alive again. And when the movie ended, most of them remained in their seats watching all the credits until finally the screen went black, wishing and hoping there would be just one more clip or sound bite. But, sadly, regretfully, finally...that was it.
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