I have to admit, I was hesitant to watching the film because I did not know what I was going to expect. I have always seen David in interviews talking about Michael and he has always been good and loyal to Michael. At the same time, I did not want to watch a film and be disappointed. So, I watched it anyway and if it was going to be a piece of junk, I was going to lash out and let everyone know about it. It was two hours long with rare pictures and video and even Whitney Houston was in the film.
To my surprise, I was a very good documentary on Michael. Not one shed of tabloid or sensationalism. It focus on Michael the child prodigy, musical genius, humanitarian and kind-hearted, child-like person. It was refreshing to see.
Now, there will be some fans who would watch the documentary and see familiar faces talking about Michael that, in the past and in recent months, have not been 100% good to Michael. For instance, J. Randy Tarborelli is in the film and in the many interviews that he has done when he talks about Michael, he is almost more of a critic than a friend. Then, there is Frank Casico, a friend of Michael's that at one point worked for Michael as his assistant. Frank has been bashed by die hard fans (including me) because he, along with his brother, Eddie, did three songs on the Michael CD that were not the vocals of Michael. Instead of admitting the obvious, they continued to assure the fans that the vocals on the songs were Michael's and no one else's. Personally, I did not like seeing him in the documentary because he betrayed Michael in the worst way possible. Lastly, the late Frank Dileo is in the film and he talks about Michael in a loving way. Frank was Michael's manager during Michael's heyday in the 1980s and again in 2009. Frank's role in the whole AEG fiasco and the events that happened after Michael's death had many fans (including me) questioning his actual role in Michael's life at that point.
However, this review is not about these men and what they said/did to Michael throughout his life. This review is about David's tribute to his friend and how he wants to world to know about and remember Michael. A little background information regarding this film: originally, this film was supposed to be either two things - a special on NBC or a movie being shown in the theaters. I am not sure why it was not a special on NBC but I can assume why it wasn't. On Friday, November 11th, MSNBC, the cable network of NBC, aired the Conrad Murray documentary. As it is known in the fan community and in the Jackson family, the media has never been fair or kind to Michael and were not going to be interested in showing any type of positive or fair reporting on Michael. My only guess as to why NBC never showed the film on their network - they were probably waiting for the time when an opportunity will come when they will have a chance to get Murray's side of the story. When that happened, they made that deal. I wanted to also state that NBC Universal distributed the film but in regards to shows like Access Hollywood and E! News, those shows never promoted his film. Heck, I did not even know that this film was going to be released until I was on facebook and saw one of my friend's status' about the film. Sad, isn't it?
Anyway, enough with all the talk of these corporations and their shady ways, let's get to the film. The film starts off with the phone call that was made to 911 by Alberto Alvarez, one of Michael's former bodyguards, in regards to Michael not breathing and the horror that was June 25th, 2009. I did not understand why this was the first scene of the film. Why remind the fans, the public, of that horrible day? *Sigh* Anyway, that was the first scene and then it transitioned from the horror to the beginning of Michael. It goes into his parents, Joseph and Katherine, their upbringing and how they met and eventually got married and had a family.
The film goes into how the children were into loving and doing music and the type of music that the children were listening to. So, as the film discusses the upbringing of the Jacksons, talk started on how Joseph raised his children. Everybody practically knows that Joseph beat his children. He was an strict disciplinarian who was very hard on his children. He did not let any of his children call him father or dad. They all called him by his first name. When Tito was ask about Michael's claims that Joseph was very hard on him, Tito believed differently. He claims that Marlon (a little) Michael, Randy and Janet go less of the blunt of Joseph strict parenting. Tito believes that the older Jacksons had it worse than the younger Jacksons. In my opinion, I understand Tito means well but I wonder how he could explain what Michael told Oprah in 1993 when he stated that Joseph would make him sick? Or when Michael told David that he was very scared of his father? Or when Janet told Piers Morgan on CNN that she does not have a relationship with her father??? Hmmmmm
The film also gets into Michael's very different relationships with his parents. Michael did not have a great relationship with his father and really started to have some sort of relationship with his father when he became a father himself. People who were around Michael and his brothers often describe Joseph as very mean and evil to his children. It was different when Michael was with his mother Katherine. Michael and Katherine were very close to one other and like one person in the film describe it, were like peas in a pod. Michael was like his mother in many ways, especially when it came to trusting people. Katherine even stated in the film that Michael told her that he was just like her. She would tell him not to be like her because she was not firm enough to people and she was very trusting. Michael's cousins appeared in the film and talked about how it was like to see their uncle prepare their cousins. They explained that Joseph did not want to work in the steel mill and the steel mill was not a place to work in.
In the film, it was mentioned the theaters where the brothers performed,like the Regal (in Chicago) and the Apollo in and David would give historical input in the impact of the theaters. He did that when he talked about the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York and 45 Discs.
When the Jackson 5 were about to be signed into Motown Records and performing in certain parts of the country, they stayed over the apartment of a singer name Bobby Taylor. Legend has it that he did discover the Jackson 5 and let Berry Gordy know about the group. Taylor would explained that Berry did not want to deal with a another kid act and did not want to signed the group at first. Now, Bobby Taylor was a no nonsense type of person who told it like it was. He said that he would watch Michael and how to figure out what to do with Michael who was always in his face and would worry. At times, Taylor would say things in a way that was funny to me, especially when he wanted Michael to sing a song a certain way.
Eventually, the group was signed into Motown and the brothers had to perform at a party that Berry Gordy was hosting in his L.A. mansion. Motown performers/artists were in the documentary and they described how talented Michael was. Dionne Warwick was on the film and she talked about the first time she met Michael and how she will always remember him. Michael, according to Smokey Robinson, was a golf critic. It shocked me to hear that because I did not even know that MJ knew anything about golf. Smokey talks about a time when he and another person took MJ to a golf course and Michael would watch them play and he would give them pointers on how to hit the ball into the hole.
The film discusses how Mr. Gordy got rid of Bobby Taylor and replaced him with a group of musicians known as the Corporation. Mr. Taylor did not like what happened when he was let go and when he talks about that in the film, I still see that it still affected him. The film does an excellent job with focusing on Michael the musician. Not only was he such a talented performer, he was also a talented singer. Some of the pictures that were used in the film were rare and were very nice. In the film, it was questioned if Michael had a childhood. There were two different views 1. he had a childhood, 2. he missed his childhood and wanted to recapture that in his adulthood. Personally, I felt that MJ did not have more of a childhood to actually experience what it is like to have a childhood. I am not sure of all of the years when he talked about not having a childhood is 100% true or false. I am sure that he had somewhat of a childhood but in a very adult world with people who were adults.
The film goes into how the Jackson 5 wanted to be taken seriously as artists and wanted to have more control on the music that they were making. In order to do this, the brothers had to leave Motown and go somewhere else. Philadelphia Records, run by Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble, wanted to work with the Jacksons and liked them instantly. When they worked with the brothers, they worked with them from the morning up until 2AM in the morning. Philadelphia Records gave the brothers and Michael an opportunity to express themselves as artists. However, even though the brothers released music from Philadelphia Records, they signed with CBS Records, under Epic (now known as Sony BMG) in the late 1970s.
The film breezes into into the success of Off the Wall and Thriller but does not put a lot of focus in it. I guess because once MJ was signed by Sony, Sony controlled all the rights of Michael's solo work.
David discusses Michael as a friend and the parties that David would host and invite Michael over. This was to show that Michael had a social life and would meet many famous people in these parties. Singer Peabo Bison talks about one incident that dealt with Michael and Peabo's date. Very funny and very Michael. David talks about the time Michael had his first alcoholic drink and how he was so drunk that MJ threw up everywhere. Very funny and very sweet memories. Whitney was featured in the film talking about the time Michael invited her to Neverland and how Bubbles wanted to make his move. Watch the film to find out what I mean.
The never ending "mystery" of Michael's sexuality makes me laugh because some people do not understand that just because Michael did not openly discussed his romantic relationships with women, it does not mean that MJ was gay. Frank Dielo and David made it very clear that Michael was a straight man. Even Dileo knew about major stars who MJ fooled around with and he could not explained what happened with them and Michael. Now that Dielo has passed on, he took the tea with him. Darn.
The film talks about the 1984 burn accident that Michael suffered from which started his dependence on painkillers. The film even shows an explanation on how the operation Michael had to treat the 2nd to 3rd degree burns was done. This was shown to get people to understand what MJ went threw at that time and even years after the surgery, he was still having serious pain from that operation. Michael's plastic surgery was discussed but I find that part unnecessary because if Michael did not want to talk about it, then, in my opinion, it should not be discussed. Some things are understandable.
Michael's life-changing crisis in 1993 regarding the false accusations he endured was discussed. Michael initially did not want to settle the 1993 case but after listening to people who did not have his best interest, he settled. I did not like that when Jordan Chandler was mentioned that J. Randy Tarborelli called him "Jordy". What was the point of calling him that name in such an affectionate matter? Weird. If you ever wanted to know how MJ felt when his sister LaToya did him dirty in 1993, the documentary will explain that. It was interesting.
The documentary discussed his marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe. Those events were not of interest to me. It did not get into anything that it already known about those relationships. Whether he had real marriages with both women is still a mystery.
In 2001, Michael was doing his 30th Anniversary special that Gest was producing and according to Frank Casico, Michael wanted his good "friend" the late Elizabeth Taylor to be there. At first, she did not want to go because she did not "feel good". So, Michael decided to purchased a very expensive necklace (you know it was diamond, it had to be. Taylor loved her diamonds) and called Taylor back and told her that he bought the necklace. When Taylor was told this, she decided to be in the show and accompanied him to the show. Let me get this straight, Taylor was Michael's best friend? Pure comedy. Anyway, Michael's brother, Jermaine was demanding during rehearsals and even though Michael loved Jermaine, Jermaine was still competing with Michael. I knew that no matter what Jermaine stated in his book, he was always jealous of Michael. Isn't that sad? After Jermaine had a talk with his mother, he was cooperative. Isn't that good to know? Jermaine knew who was running the show. Now we know why Michael never wanted to do a reunion tour with his brothers. No, not because of the rumors of Michael's so called "issues" with his brothers but because Jermaine likes to do things his own way, literally. That will be discussed when I do a review on Jermaine's book.
A few years after the 3oth anniversary concert, Michael went through a terrible ordeal that was known as the 2005 Child Abuse Trial. Tom Mesereau was in the documentary and he will be forever loved by Michael, the Jacksons and the MJ fan community (and me) for his amazing work with Michael. The film talks about the trial and the foolishness that came with the trial. After Michael was vindicated, he did not even know that he was vindicated. It was sad and heartbreaking to watch people talk about how out of it Michael was at that point. People that he helped and cared about lied about him in court and disrespected him. The Arvizo family was a nasty, evil group of roaches that ruined that man's life. I cannot even get into how pathetic the media was to Michael during that crazy.
Overall, the documentary tells the story about Michael: the wonderful child singer who became the biggest entertainer ever. Watching the film, it helped me understand some things about Michael and gave me a clearer view. Most importantly, this film will help people who were not alive to witness his greatness or who are re-discovering his greatness to finally understand Michael Jackson.
A true friend has your back, tells you the truth and really cares about you. A true friend respects your family and looks out for you. David Gest was that true friend to Michael. At times, I often wonder who were really his true friends and I remember what Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Chris Tucker, and the Hiltons all did for Michael. I also remember that Gest this this documentary to show the world that his good friend, Michael Joseph Jackson, was a talented musician, a great entertainer and a good man with a loving spirit and a kind heart. God Bless you, Michael and rest in heaven.
Michael Jackson: Life of an Icon by David Gest (2011)
Michael and David from the early 1980s from my personal harddrive.
The cover of the film from amazon.com