Ian Thomas Malone

Monthly Archive: March 2019



March 2019



Satan & Adam Squanders a Good Story with No Sense of Narrative Direction

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The story of blues duo Satan and Adam is a fascinating one that transcends racial and generational barriers. The pairing of a young white kid playing harmonica on the streets of Harlem alongside a black guitarist who was once signed to Ray Charles’ Tangerine Records produced a unique sound that brought them plenty of success, including numerous festival appearances and a European tour opening for Bo Diddley. Unfortunately, the documentary tasked with presenting their story never seems confident as to how to tell it.

As a film, Satan & Adam is all over the place. The documentary starts off by setting the scene of racial tension in New York City in the 1980s, featuring interviews with Al Sharpton. Presented alongside the introductions of Adam Gussow and Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, the narrative appears to assign some broader societal purpose behind their pairing, except the film abandons that subject early on. The mentioning of racial tension appears to essentially exist in the film to make the case that it was hard for a person like Adam to perform on the streets of a predominantly black neighborhood. It’s a weird point to bring up with regard to an Ivy League-educated individual, and one that falls flat in its efforts to garner sympathy for Adam’s outsider status.

The documentary struggles in its duel presentation of Mr. Satan and Adam’s lives. Gussow is interviewed extensively throughout the film, but Mr. Satan’s legend is largely established through third-person accounts. Mr. Satan had played for decades alongside James Brown, King Curtis, and Big Maybelle, which makes Adam sound fairly boisterous in several scenes where he equates their playing abilities. The absence of interviews from Mr. Satan creates the illusion that he’s deceased throughout much of the film’s first half.

Satan & Adam struggles to establish Adam’s likability, positioning him as the singular force behind the commercialization of their music. Adam published an article in Harper’s Magazine in 1998, and he admits that he begrudgingly shared half the commission for the story at Magee’s request. Gussow is also depicted as the driving force behind their studio recording, but the impact of this on Mr. Satan’s life is left unclear, a puzzling decision since the documentary extensively covers Satan’s mental breakdown and abrupt move to Florida. Adam is nowhere to be found throughout Satan’s recovery, a point that’s only briefly touched upon.

The film lacks a cohesive overarching narrative, only briefly focusing on Satan and Adam’s success as a duo. Their inclusion on U2’s classic Rattle and Hum album is mentioned along with an interview with The Edge, but the segment feels like a minor footnote instead of a high point of their careers. Satan’s life is fascinating, but the documentary suffers when only Adam’s story is presented, especially given how much of the narrative is driven by Adam’s own accounts. Magee’s wife, Miss Macie, is introduced late in the film, presented essentially as a villain disrupting the band. Macie’s antagonistic introduction is paired with a few quick interviews that hint at tension on the road, though the documentary moves on shortly after without really explaining anything. It’s never really made clear what the filmmakers expect anyone to make of these brief snippets of conflict.

Satan & Adam has a good story to tell, but the documentary never establishes a consistent narrative to tie its many pieces together. With a runtime of barely eighty minutes, it’s possible that the documentary bit off more than it could chew, tackling two separate lives, their joint musical career, as well as Harlem race relations all in one film. What’s oddly missing is the clear sense that both of their lives were improved by their relationship with each other. Satan would have been a Harlem legend regardless of Adam, while Gussow has enjoyed a career teaching literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The lasting legacy of Satan and Adam is one that the film never quite establishes. For a documentary that took over twenty years to film, Satan & Adam doesn’t know what it wants to say.



March 2019



Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey Is a Powerful Testament to the Will of the Human Spirit

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Passion is one of those concepts that’s easy to visualize if not challenging to define. The life of Fred Beckey, who spent the vast majority of his ninety-four years on earth rock climbing, is hard to describe without the word passion. Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey sought to explore the ethos behind the man who was fortunate enough to spend the bulk of his life doing what he loved.

The term “dirtbag,” used to refer to climbers who religiously pursue the less-than-glamorous outdoors lifestyle, was popularized by Beckey himself. Credited with more first ascents than any other North American climber, an achievement unlikely to ever be surpassed, Beckey slowly carved out his legacy over decades spent persistently pursuing any mountain he could get his hands on. Over the course of his life, Beckey published numerous books on climbing, and he received the seldom-awarded President’s Gold Medal from the American Alpine Club.

Dirtbag is mostly presented as a retrospective, chronicling Beckey’s extensive career. Director Dave O’Leske shot over ten years of footage of Beckey, who was still an active climber in the last years of his life. The documentary early on establishes Beckey’s reluctance to participate, an avoidance of the spotlight that perhaps explains his status as a cult hero within the climbing community. Using old footage and photographs, the film does an excellent job in giving the viewer a front-row seat to Beckey’s life over its various stages.

Reluctant as he was, Beckey makes for a fascinating subject. Unconcerned with his broader legacy, the old climber captivates the screen in each of his interviews, mixing philosophical observations with coarse humor. Even benign moments like watching Beckey call up companions for a prospective climb in the middle of a retail store provide interesting portraits into how greatness is crafted through sheer persistence.

The subject of women is one that the film handles in rather poor taste. Though there are numerous interviews chronicling Beckey’s womanizing habits, including a few from former lovers, the documentary includes a few crude animations that don’t really serve any broader purpose than to hype up that kind of behavior. The animations put the documentary in an awkward position, going a step beyond anything explicitly described of Beckey, and fail to add to the narrative in any meaningful way.

While Beckey may not have demonstrated much interest in introspection, the film makes a convincing case for his place in alpine lore. The documentary takes a look at some of Beckey’s contemporaries who went on to make big names for themselves on major expeditions that he was excluded from, as well as the simple fact that Beckey’s longevity is largely due to his embrace of the often lonely nomadic lifestyle. Beckey pursued his dream practically exclusively, at the expense of a family or any sense of financial security. O’Leske deserves a lot of credit for providing a balanced look at the complete picture of his subject.

Dirtbag paints a fascinating portrait of what it means to live life in full pursuit of one’s passions. Fred Beckey’s story is one that’s easy to marvel at without feeling any desire to follow suit. Whatever map can be drawn to plot the course of success invariably involves a heavy helping of determination. Above all else, Dirtbag challenges its viewers to consider the full ramifications of following your dreams.



March 2019



Us Is a Terrifying Yet Thought-Provoking Horror Film

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Part of what made Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out such a treat was the way it defied typical genre expectations, throwing practically everything and the kitchen sink at its audience. As a more traditional horror film, Us feels practically tame by comparison, offering scares that wouldn’t seem out of place in an entry into the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. For a director as innovative as Peele, the confines of staying within horror’s established norms might feel constraining, but the talented director has a way of captivating with whatever material he chooses to work with.

Peele takes something as benign as a carnival funhouse mirror and turns it into an object of apprehension. Adelaide is a girl haunted by her experience of walking into one late one night, discovering something that felt like more than a reflection. Years later, with a loving family, she finds herself continually reminded of the night, fearful of repeating the terrifying events.

Us is the kind of film that demands a lot from its actors, with each tasked with playing the doppelganger version of their characters. Lead actress Lupita Nyong’o handled this job exceptionally, carving out distinct identities that played well against each other. Nyong’o is a very expressive actress, often using gestures and expressions to convey emotion rather than simple words. The film’s child cast, including Madison Curry, Ashley McKoy, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex give strong performances that demonstrate a refreshing sense of comfort for young talent in a horror film.

While Peele is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, he uses dialogue sparingly throughout much of the film. The subtle score and expressive actors often carry the suspense, without a ton of screaming or verbal panic to convey the fear. The sets are crafted in a way that creates natural claustrophobia as the characters try to navigate the evil plaguing their home. It’s the kind of horror that creeps under your skin by disrupting one’s own notion of comfort.

As a genre, horror often has a tricky relationship with the concept of exposition. The mystery of the terror is often a big part of the scare appeal, especially since the audience can substitute their own worst fears in the void of the unknown. Efforts to explain figures like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees often fall flat as the characters are terrifying enough with only minimal backstory. Us manages to dive into the why without losing any thrills, highlighting Peele’s talent as a storyteller. He lets the audience behind the curtain long enough to get a feel for what’s happening, while preserving plenty of the intrigue.

Us is a terrifying sophomore effort from director Jordan Peele, offering a thought-provoking perspective on the horror genre. Slasher movies don’t necessarily need to provide much fodder for the mind, but Peele reminds us of the power that film possesses to re-evaluate the way we think about the world. Us is the kind of movie that will thoroughly frighten you while leaving plenty of substance to chew on when the thrills have worn off.



March 2019



Star Trek: Discovery Season Two Uses Fan Favorites Without Letting Them Take Over the Show

Written by , Posted in Blog, Reviews

For a franchise that popularized the phrase, “where no man has gone before,” the past twenty years of Star Trek have seen a lot of familiar faces. The idea of Christopher Pike playing a prominent role both in the 2009 reboot film and season two of Discovery seems almost impossible to fathom after his unceremonious exit in the original series. While Captain Pike was intended to helm the Enterprise in the original pilot “The Cage,” which had its footage reused for the season one two-part episode “The Menagerie,” the character became a footnote in franchise lore for decades. That is, until Bruce Greenwood was called upon to play the character, now meant to be a mentor for a young James T. Kirk. Ten years later, Anson Mount has brought considerable depth to the man once intended to lead the franchise.

After a bumpy start, Star Trek: Discovery put together one of the strongest freshman seasons in the franchise. The serialized format played well to the cast’s strengths, allowing the characters to grow alongside the complex long-form storytelling full of twists and turns. The conclusion of the season-long Klingon War left the future for Discovery completely open, somewhat conflicted by the sight of the Enterprise in the finale. After a season building up a whole new cast, it seemed a little puzzling that the show would want to highlight characters who have been around for decades. Season two ran the risk of devolving into a literal TOS prequel rather than simply a show set before it.

Perhaps season two’s greatest achievement is the way it integrated Captain Pike onto the bridge of Discovery without taking away from the enjoyable dynamic already in place. He’s an asset to the crew, not a leader hell-bent on molding his subordinates in his own image. Pike feels like a natural part of the team and it’ll be sad to see him go, assuming the rumors about his departure at the end of the season are accurate.

Discovery is still very much Michael Burnham’s show. Sonequa Martin-Green has done a superb job this season in making sure Burnham still commands the stage in scenes opposite Starfleet higher-ups as well as her half-brother Spock, quite possibly the franchise’s most beloved character. As intriguing as the Red Queen is, the plotline is further accentuated by the personal weight it carries for the show’s leading character.

Season two makes use of the series’ talented guest cast, with characters like Admiral Cornwell and (Mirror) Captain Georgiou making extensive appearances, but the show is at its best when it focuses on its core cast. Episode four “An Obol for Charon,” showcased the relationship between Burnham and Saru, delivering an emotional payoff that was quite impressive for a show only in its second season. Characters like Ensign Tilly and Paul Stamets haven’t had as much time to shine this year, but actors Mary Wiseman and Anthony Rapp make the most of the time they’re given. The show has also gone out of its way to highlight background characters like Lieutenant Kayla Detmer and Airam, giving its bridge officers an additional sense of purpose.

Placing Spock at the heart of the narrative was a tricky proposition, but the show’s navigated the popular Vulcan quite well. Ethan Peck does a great job playing the character, putting his own spin on Spock while staying faithful to the spirit of Leonard Nimoy’s performance. The mood of the show is a bit different without the Klingon War, but the varying tone from episode to episode is refreshing from an audience standpoint, never quite sure what’s going to happen each week.

Season two uses fan favorite characters to bolster its strong cast without relying too heavily on the franchise’s existing lore. I don’t know how much Spock is too much Spock, but the show handles him with grace. Star Trek: Discovery has been consistently great at long-form storytelling. While I’d like a little more of the focus moving forward to be centered on Discovery-created characters, the show has proved adept at navigating whatever part of space it chooses to fly into.



March 2019



Arrested Development’s Fifth Season Is an Embarrassment to Its Legacy

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

Flawed as it was, season four of Arrested Development set the baseline for TV revivals in two important ways. The most prominent criticisms of the follow-up installment to the Bluth saga tended to revolve around the season’s drastically different tone from the original run as well as the lack of main characters on screen at the same time. Season five sought to rectify these issues, with results that make you wonder if the saga of the Bluths is simply too tired to continue.

Arrested Development has always been a plot-centric show, which was quite unusual for comedies when it first aired in the early 2000s. After a decade of so-called “peak–TV,” the format is far more common, which perhaps evaporates any brownie points the show could earn simply through its sheer complexity. Season four, with its fractured narrative, was hard to follow even if you were trying quite hard to piece together the events initially presented out of chronological order.

Season five, split into two eight-episode installments, the latter of which dropped last week, runs into a different problem. It’s still very confusing, a point the show seems well aware of, extensively using narrator Ron Howard to explain the plot mid-episode. The plot is also difficult to follow for the simple reason that it’s not very interesting or funny. Complexity is especially challenging when the viewer lacks an incentive to engage with the material. You can piece together the puzzle, but there’s no real payoff at the end of it.

The jokes are few and far between. There are an awful lot of gay jokes present, which might have been amusing to a general audience back in 2002, but seem weirdly out of place on a show once praised for its writing. Tobias’ Mrs. Featherbottom routine is similarly overused, lacking moments where humor is even suggested to be conveyed. Even the sharp-witted matriarch Lucille Bluth’s signature one-liners fall surprisingly flat, despite Jessica Walter’s immense talent as an actress.

The acting is serviceable, as expected with an A-list cast. Tony Hale, appearing in far more of the second half of season five than the first, is perhaps the standout Bluth, making the most of Buster’s time at the center of the narrative. Jeffrey Tambor, marred in scandal after being fired from Transparent for sexual harassment accusations as well as admitted verbal abuse of costar Jessica Walter, looks uncomfortable in the dual roles of George/Oscar. The show would have been better off simply cutting him from the show, as his presence sours an experience that’s already pretty lackluster. Portia de Rossi, who retired from acting before season five, is limited to a cameo appearance in the second half.

While the first half of season five was marred by overuse of green screens used to create the illusion that the Bluths were in the same room, the final eight episodes are far more convincing. There is a lingering distraction caused by the idea that practically every scene needs to be examined for editing, but the show does a good job of at least presenting the idea that its cast members are physically in the same space. As weird as it feels to compliment a show for that simple feature, this issue has been a persistent problem for Arrested Development since its revival.

Television has evolved considerably since Arrested Development first premiered. Single camera comedies have become more of the rule than the exception. Somewhere along the way, a show once praised for its quality writing became complacent, content to rest of the laurels of gags that debuted more than a decade ago.

Absent is any sense of urgency driving the wit. Some of the show’s best moments came from season three, when Arrested Development increasingly embraced gallows humor in the face of imminent cancellation. The threat of no additional seasons has been replaced by the sad feeling of watching a once great show tarnish its legacy with lazy follow-ups. Season five proved that Arrested Development could imitate its glory years, but the Bluths don’t seem to have anything funny left to say.



March 2019



Now Apocalypse Finds Amusement in Familiar Territory

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

The idea of yet another half-hour comedy about millennials in Los Angeles deserves an eye-roll no matter the quality of the show itself. The trope of being affluent and sad has been more than thoroughly fleshed out over the past decade. While Starz’s new series Now Apocalypse hardly reinvents the wheel, the show’s colorful aesthetics and charming cast make for a worthwhile experience.

Crafted by filmmaker Greg Araki, whose films were at the forefront of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s, Now Apocalypse follows a group of twenty-somethings in Los Angeles, searching for meaning while smoking tons of weed and having lots of sex in the process. Ulysses Zane (Avan Jorgia) can’t shake the idea that something spooky is going on in the world as he’s repeatedly ghosted by a prospective fling. His roommate Ford Halstead (Beau Mirchoff) is trying to find a connection with his sort-of girlfriend Severine (Roxanne Mesquida) as he tries to make it as a writer, constantly struggling to survive the confines of the hookup culture which hardly rewards any genuine expression of emotion. Rounding out the main cast is Carly (Kelli Berglund), an actress who moonlights as a cam girl to make ends meet.

The supernatural undercurrents in Now Apocalypse play a backseat to general millennial stereotypes in the first few episodes, much to the show’s detriment. The scripts are quite clichéd, without the expected satire the premise seems to be going for. Cell phone dating apps have been around for years, spearheading the modern day hookup culture, but television as a whole hasn’t figured out much to say about it other than that being ghosted understandably sucks.

And yet, there’s something oddly alluring about Now Apocalypse. The show handles its numerous sex scenes gracefully, including gay and polyamorous hookups, and not as exploitative in service to a larger plot point. The main cast is eminently likable despite the lack of originality in their characters. Jorgia and Berglund are quite relatable as dreamy young souls trying to find their place in an unforgiving city. Mirchoff, essentially riffing off his previous role as Matty McKibbin on MTV’s Awkward, manages to garner sympathy even as a privileged jock who finds good fortune at every turn.

Quite simply, Now Apocalypse is a lot of fun. Like the actors, the sets are gorgeous to look at. The episodes are well-paced and always seem to leave you excited about what’s going to happen next. The show slowly ups its ante on absurdity without bogging down the rest of its narrative. It’s rare for a show to introduce a concept like sex-crazed lizards and get away with not immediately addressing them in the following episode, but Now Apocalypse keeps flowing without any pressing urgency.

It’s hard to say what kind of show Now Apocalypse will be moving forward, assuming it builds on the paranormal introduced early on. For now, the show is quite a fun ride, well worth a binge on a lazy day. It doesn’t exactly break a ton of new ground, but the cast is enjoyable enough for that not to be much of a concern. Starz has carved out an impressive niche of offbeat half-hour programs, and Now Apocalypse is a fine addition to its lineup.



March 2019



Captain Marvel Is An Unremarkable Origin Narrative That Never Lets Its Star Shine

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The early entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe excelled at establishing their characters, relatively independent of any obligations to a larger connected continuity. All of the previous origin narratives across the three phases of this massive saga have allowed their heroes the opportunity to make their own mark on an audience, knowing that the idea of bringing them all together for a big team-up constantly lingers in the background. Investment in these characters is the primary reason behemoth undertakings like Avengers: Infinity War work so well.

Captain Marvel feels oddly rushed for a first-time solo adventure. From the first moments on, the film rarely stops to catch a breath. Lost in the frantic pacing is the idea that Carol Danvers is a person whom the audience might enjoy getting to know along the course of the film’s brisk two-hour run time. Danvers spends much of the film trying to figure out her own past, but the narrative is too all over the place to give any sense of direction to her development as a character.

Brie Larson is totally underutilized in the title role, never really getting a chance to shine, despite her character’s immense powers. There are a few scenes where Larson gets to showcase Danvers’ personality, mostly opposite Samuel L. Jackson, who puts in a predictably solid effort as Nick Fury. The immaculate process of digitally de-aging Fury and longtime MCU stalwart Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is more remarkable than most of the lines either character speak throughout the film.

As with many MCU films, there are far too many villains. Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn each portray complex characters whose potential depth is lost in a narrative that simply doesn’t have time to fully flesh out the conflict between the Skrull and the Kree. The film does little to suggest that Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou, both reprising their roles from The Guardians of the Galaxy, are there for any reason other than to simply serve as connections to the broader continuity. Lashana Lynch is also underutilized as Maria Rambeau, Danvers’ best friend and the link to her past on earth.

Nostalgia is a powerful force throughout the film, which goes to great lengths to recreate 90s America as well as the feel of the early days of the MCU. As fun as it is to see Danvers crashing into a Blockbuster Video or Coulson interacting with the juggernauts of the franchise after years on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the sense persists that the film is trying too hard to retcon Captain Marvel into its world, as opposed to weaving her in naturally through the force of her as a character. This narrative should be Captain Marvel’s first, and everything else second, but too often it spends its time functioning as a prequel to the Avengers Initiative. Fury’s presence is an asset, but the jumbled mess that is the Kree/Skrull storyline burdens a film that never seems sure of what it wants to be.

Captain Marvel feels less like an origin narrative and more like a placeholder for bigger, better things to come. The audience knows that Danvers is going to play a big factor in Avengers: Endgame, but the prospect of beating up Thanos two months from now doesn’t do much to sell the movie being presented to audiences right now. Future films will be able to focus more on the conflict between the Skrull and the Kree, but how much are we supposed to care? It’s hard to get excited about Captain Marvel leading the Avengers down the road when she’s not even fully trusted to carry her own movie.

The action scenes are mostly duds, poorly framed and constantly set against bland color palettes. There are bits of humor here and there, but there isn’t enough dramatic tension for the jokes to really land. Like Thor, Captain Marvel’s sheer strength makes it a bit harder to craft compelling fight sequences, but it doesn’t feel like any effort was made to put anything on screen that the audience might remember a week later.

The MCU has very few misfires, but this one simply didn’t come together despite following the same general formula the franchise has deployed for most of its other films. Thoroughly unremarkable, Captain Marvel wanders aimlessly through various half-baked plotlines without ever investing in its title character. For a film set in the past with its eyes on the future of the franchise, for some reason, it never seemed capable of living in its own present.



March 2019



Leaving Neverland Lets Michael Jackson’s Accusers Speak Their Truth

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

Leaving Neverland is the kind of film that forces the viewer to question the very mandate expected of documentaries to present the truth, or at least its very best interpretation of the facts. The narratives of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both accuse Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as children, hardly produce much evidence to prove their cases other than the disturbing similarities in their accounts. For diehard fans of the legendary pop-star, the failure to offer up a definitive smoking gun proving their allegations might be enough to dismiss them entirely, to keep on believing in the man they adore.

Much of the coverage of the #MeToo movement has focused on the punishments doled out to the accused, fired from their cushy jobs or cast out from polite society. Such narrative framing is inherently transactional in nature, with the notion of justice guiding the reaction to each termination. Leaving Neverland lacks an outlet to pursue this objective, with Jackson’s death and the statute of limitations laws complicating any idea of closure.

Lost in the broader headlines of #MeToo is the more nuanced objective of many of the people who have spoken out over the course of the movement. For many, justice never enters the equation. For many, all that’s desired is simply to be heard.

Leaving Neverland is not a film about justice, but rather the long-term corrosive effect of years of abuse. Both Safechuck and Robson had complex relationships with Jackson that neither appears to have fully worked out just yet. There is no notion of righting these wrongs. The film paints a clear picture of the damage done to both of their families for the simple mistake of trusting the perceived generosity one of the most powerful celebrities in the world.

For a documentary with a runtime of nearly four hours, Leaving Neverland feels surprisingly intimate in its scope. Relying entirely on accounts from the accusers and their families, the film painstakingly explores their relationships with Michael Jackson. The documentary bounces between both families, chilling the audience with the consistency of each narrative. The broader context of Jackson’s sexual abuse trials and his death are held until the second part, though always framing the narrative through its impact on Robson and Safechuck. This isn’t Michael Jackson’s story, but theirs.

Leaving Neverland is a very hard film to watch. The documentary wields tremendous power in the simplicity of its narrative, almost like listening to the two families sit in therapy as they worked through the repressed horrors they endured. It’s clear that many members of each family loved Jackson and found it incredibly hard to cope with what he put the children through. This dynamic creates several moments of frustration toward the parents that failed to see the seemingly obvious, but the film rarely concerns itself with judgment. Reality is far more complex than any truths hindsight could have illustrated.

While the film will undoubtedly earn some criticism for its one-sided approach that never gave anyone from Jackson’s estate a chance to respond, Leaving Neverland never goes out of its way to vilify the pop star beyond laying out his alleged crimes. The film presents its case without any broader call to action. Michael Jackson’s legacy is a complicated one, but the documentary doesn’t concern itself with trying to deal with that. Its only focus is to finally allow the Robson and Safechuck families the chance to tell their side of the story.

Public opinion on Michael Jackson can be (broadly) divided into three categories. There are those who reject the claims of his accusers entirely, those who view him as a creep and want nothing to do with his body of work, and those who seek to separate the complicated man from his artistic genius. Leaving Neverland doesn’t try to move people from one of those camps into another, but it does force a light on the complicated mentality of the third group. People can enjoy his music while accepting the merits of his accusers, but much of the coverage of Jackson since his death has sought to sweep the unseemly portions of his legacy under the rug. This documentary reminds the public at large that there’s still a lot about the man that shouldn’t be forgotten when remembering him.

Leaving Neverland is a timely film for the #MeToo era, focusing less on the idea of justice than the simple power that comes from finally being heard. There’s nothing on earth that can fix the wrongs done to Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Their lives and those of their families were permanently damaged as a result of their relationship with Jackson. While justice won’t be served, the film draws its greatest strength through the closure that the process has hopefully offered these tragic victims.