Leaving Neverland (2019)

leaving neverland poster 2019 documentary michael jackson
8.5 Overall Score

Pretty powerful and potentially damning

Many have decided their opinions on Jackson, hard to stomach

Movie Info

Movie Name: Leaving Neverland

Studio: Amos Pictures

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s): January 25, 2019 (Sundance)/March 3, 2019-March 4, 2019 (HBO)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

leaving neverland wade robeson james safechuck accusers victims

Do you believe?

Wade Robson and James Safechuck found their lives immediately changed when they meet Michael Jackson.  Wade meets Jackson after winning a talent competition impersonating Jackson while James meets Jackson while shooting a Pepsi commercial.  As Jackson becomes part of both the Robson and Safechuck families, Jackson introduced Wade and James to a secret world that even their parents weren’t allowed to know.  With accusations of abuse, Wade and James both are forced to remember their past…and how it changed their lives forever.

Directed by Dan Reed, Leaving Neverland is a documentary about the sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson.  The film was released at Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019 and later aired on HBO in two parts from March 3, 2019-March 4, 2019.  The documentary was met with both praise and criticism.

I was a big fan of Thriller when I was little.  I can remember liking Michael Jackson, but deciding he was “weird” because even then the guy was just odd…despite his talent.  Though I continued to like his music, Jackson got stranger and stranger.  Finally, allegations began to come out about Michael Jackson that didn’t particularly surprise me.  On the “children” side of the story, Leaving Neverland feels like justification for those suspicions…but it is also more damning than I expected it to be.

leaving neverland wade robeson michael jackson

A smooth criminal?

The documentary focuses on two children which is a plus and a negative.  I think sometimes the two stories of James and Wade blur which is intentional, but I sometimes would confuse the actual “storylines” of the two children and their family.  What comes from this blurring is how similar their stories are.  While some could argue that they could have simply crafted a story based on other complaints about Michael Jackson, the stories are different enough, but demonstrate a pattern…if they had been identical, then they would have been more questionable.

The next criticism would be the “why?”  While some argue that it would be for money, it isn’t worth it…both men are successful, married, and with a child of their own.  If either man had wanted to make money, a tell-all book (without the sex) probably would have still been a real moneymaker.  The pain and torture to themselves, their family, and their wives just doesn’t measure up to whatever cash they received.  They are recounting events that are in the past and reopening wounds as they try to come to terms about their past and their feelings for someone who was their friend (while trying to separate those feelings).

leaving neverland stephanie safechuck james michael jackson

“I f*!#ed up”

The problems with the documentary would be the unbalanced nature.  Reed intentionally did not reach out to Macaulay Culkin or Brett Barnes because they had always denied any sexual relationship with Jackson…but the documentary still implies that there was a relationship.  While if you know any stories about sexual abuse, Robson and Safechuck’s stories fits the pattern of abuse, but a psychologist exploring the thoughts and mentality of the situation might have also been beneficial.

Leaving Neverland is an odd case.  It does feel powerful enough to potentially change the mind of a viewer, but it also raises the separation between art and the artist.  Is Michael Jackson’s music still valid and enjoyable?  That remains up to the person (I can still listen to Jackson).  If you are a staunch defender of Michael Jackson, I’d maybe challenge you (if you can stomach the documentary) to see it and say Wade Robson and James Safechuck and their families are lying about everything…but if you believe even part of their story, it might mean even more of their story is true.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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