Below is an honest review by Kate Allen for MJWN on the David Gest’s video – ‘Michael Jackson – The Life Of An Icon.’
Last night Michael Jackson fans were invited to Leicester Square to walk the red carpet for the world premiere of Michael Jackson: The Life Of An Icon. Preceding the film, David Gest, the film’s producer, put questions to Rebbie and Tito Jackson, and Thomas Mesereau and Susan Yu, the attorneys who defended Michael and helped to prove him innocent in 2005. Each recalled their favourite and fondest memories of Michael, particularly heart warming was Rebbie’s recollection of Michael putting together a walk-in gallery of Jackson family photos for his nearest and dearest to enjoy. Also welcomed to the stage were some of the evening’s star guests including Martha Reeves, Stylistics frontman Russell Allen Thompkins, Jr. and R&B soul vocalist Peabo Bryson.
With the auditorium full, the lights dimmed and the screen curtains drawn back, the film began, rather depressingly, with the emergency 911 call made on June 25th 2009; an odd starting point for what has been touted as a celebratory documentary. Another focal selling point of this film has been the number of interviewees who volunteered to take part, and many of those contributions come from Michael’s Motown contemporaries. Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Lamont Dozier and Brian and Edward Holland, of legendary songwriting and production trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, all tell of the precocious and astoundingly talented young boy they met from Gary, Indiana. Much time is dedicated to the story of the Jackson 5 days, but frustratingly little performance footage is used.
Very particular moments of Michael’s life once he had gone solo are focused upon for the remainder of the film. Shocking footage from the Pepsi commercial that went woefully awry in 1984 shows in clear view just how serious the injuries Michael suffered were and also details the excruciating and extensive surgery he had to undergo to repair his scalp. Covering his solo career, the most valuable recollections come courtesy of the late Frank Dileo, a man clearly concerned with both Michael’s success and personal welfare. In contrast, a worrying admission comes from Gest himself. The night Michael Jackson was due onstage in 2001 to play Madison Square Garden for the 30th Anniversary Celebration, an event organised by Gest, despite Michael being in a state of anaesthetic-induced exhaustion, Gest happily admits to the fact that he forced Michael to perform.
Happier memories come courtesy of Katherine Jackson, and it is her recollections that are the true highlight of the film. She chuckles warmly throughout; from her surprise at having nine children to her bemusement at her son confirming his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley over the telephone. Katherine talks of her happiness at Michael’s children now living with her, but her bereavement of the circumstances. Emotionally, she makes this a very human and timelessly sad tale: “Children are supposed to bury parents, not parents bury children.” Despite the gracious and honest input from Jackson family members, the final word of the film goes to David Gest – he makes it quite clear that this is a “David Gest Production” throughout.