Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three-Act Structure in Billy Elliot

"Billy Elliot" (2000) Directed by Stephen Daldry 
Screenplay by Lee Hall

*spoiler alert 

Billy Elliot is the story of a boy who is in a working class home in a mining town in England. He has a passion for ballet but is expected to conform to gender roles and enroll in boxing and eventually follow in his father’s footsteps to become a miner.
         The structure of Billy Elliot follows the classical Hollywood Three Act structure. It is divided into thirds with two major plot points followed by the climax in the third act.

ACT I: Billy, the protagonist of the story goes to take boxing at the local community center. Professor Ramirez-Berg’s lecture stated that there was an overall rise and fall action and also smaller rise and falling actions within the acts. The major conflict that exists throughout the first two acts is the tension between Billy and his father. The rising action of the first act occurs when Billy begins to take secret ballet lessons and discovers his love and talent for dance. This becomes a secret that he has to hide from his father. His father expects him to follow in his footsteps and be a “normal” boy. The plot point in Act 1 that escalates the stakes is the moment when Billy’s father discovers that Billy has been taking ballet lessons and confronts him about it. It causes the audience to ask the questions “will Billy get to continue dance? Will he decide to disobey his father”? This propels the plot forward into the next act.

Act II:  Billy continues with his lessons behind his father’s back. This implies a complication that will occur in the future. The second act continues as Billy’s skill set increases. Billy’s dance teacher encourages him to try out for the Royal Ballet School in London. The plot point in Act II occurs when Billy’s father sees his son dance and recognizes his true talent. This causes the audience to question what will happen to Billy, whether he will get into the Royal Ballet School, and how his father will deal with the changes in his life. The plot point of the last Act is, at this point, answered. Billy did continue with dance despite his father’s warnings.

Act III: Billy auditions for a spot in the Royal Ballet School. The tension in this act centers around whether or not he will get in. The rising action of the movie occurs in the third act at Billy’s audition. He gets into a fight and yet performs an incredibly electric audition that impresses the judges. The audience considers the consequences of Billy’s actions. Will his rash behavior cost him his future in dance? In the climactic scene of the movie, Billy receives his letter from the Dance academy and is accepted! Billy Elliot is a perfect example of the three-act structure being adapted easily for melodramas with happy endings. The plot point of the second acts are answered as Billy goes to The Royal Ballet Academy and his dad returns to his job after being on strike. The loose ends are tied up and the Three-Act structure is complete. 

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