This is It (2009)

I vaguely remember this coming out in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death and I always meant to see it, but never got to it. Saw it at Hastings for a dollar on Blu and had to pick it up. The film starts out with your typical talking heads chatting about how great it is to audition for Jackson. It feels so canned and uninteresting that I was bracing for the tedium to continue. But once Jackson shows up, the magic begins. Almost all of the footage that follows is from rehearsals of the tour he was planning.

Jackson is fascinating to watch first and foremost as a performer. His absence leaves a void as there is no one who can sing, perform and dance at the level he did. The only contemporary that comes close is Janelle Monáe. He’s the whole deal and you see how much passion, drive and discipline he puts into the show.

There’s also a great showcase of how many other people come alongside to make this into something grand. The set technicians come up with tons of cool, creative ways to make Jackson this rising force throughout the show. He also has a great, patient coach and a lot of talented dancers and musicians who back him up.

What breaks my heart watching this is seeing the inner turmoil Jackson goes through as he tries to be perfect. Any misstep, any mistake, and you can feel the quiet anger broiling inside him. He’s got that perfectionist streak in him and you can see it eat away with him with each mistake. It’s a shame because he’s perhaps the greatest musical performer of a generation, but he’s never good enough. That resonates a lot with me. Perfectionism more deadly than any poison, a lifetime of small deaths.

© 2016 James Blake Ewing