Billy Liar (1963) Directed by John Schlesinger
Back from Christmas hibernation. And I'm back from suffering fever in bed after the Christmas stress got the best of me. Today I even ventured out for a walk and discovered the world pretty much the same as before. So here's one more review for the year 2010.
I don't think Billy Liar is Nick's favorite, although we are supposed to be reviewing the favorites still and this was his choice. This time is a special transition period between Christmas films (such as Home Alone 1 and 2), over-watching movies in general, and the new year with a return to routine. It's a strange time I have to add, somehow this roaming routineless makes me restless. I'm two paragraphs into this review and still have not mentioned Billy.
Well, I thought I was in for a light stylish fun time. What I got was a depression induced by Billy's lying, Julie Christie's annoyingly effortless beauty and edge, and the perfect duffel bag on the train table. The worst thing was that Billy was a very talented and creative person who was obviously never going to come to nothing because he was afraid to take any risks. Something in me feels too fragile to really analyze what made me so uncomfortable here, but I certainly wasn't in the mood.
Living in an alternative reality to the everyday humdrum existence we call life is something I often resort to. Yes, I'm a daydreamer, and a put-offer of doing things. But still, I get round to the essential things in the end. What I don't do is create yarns about myself and others that don't pertain to reality, like Billy Fisher does as the main protagonist of Billy Liar.
Schlesinger's debut film looks amazing, and you certainly get a sense of the 'swinging 1960's' from some of the fish-eye shots and imaginative use of camera composition. Julie Christie's 'It Girl' stroll down the street is groovy and fab. Tom Courtney is smug and self involved enough as Billy, but his smart arsed demeanor leaves me with little sympathy for the boy who hasn't the courage to follow his dream of the big city lights. Keith Waterhouse's script still tickles the funny bone, it's just that's not enough to carry the movie.
England (West Bromwich to be exact) looks marvelous in the 60's and it does leave pangs of nostalgia for a life that once was from this self exiled Brit. The scene with Billy at the breakfast table and the HP Sauce bottle in the foreground pulls the heartstrings. The British New wave of the 60's has aged badly. The lunges into seriousness towards the end of Billy Liar feels hollow. So, It's style over substance for Billy Liar. An enjoyable romp, just don't take the misplaced social commentary very seriously.