The Reel Review
Following its jaw dropping, January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, HBO and Britain’s Channel Four are airing the shocking documentary chronicling details of the late pop superstar Michael Jackson’s alleged years-long, sexual molestation and emotional manipulation of two young boys, now grown men.
Part One details Jackson’s alleged manipulation of the two boys’ starstruck families, the extremely immersive, personal and escapist relationships he established with the boys and in particular, their entire families, before diving into the lurid details of Jackson’s alleged sexual activities with the two young boys. Those details are stomach churning and unforgettable. The film’s interviews, archival footage, family photographs, and written messages paint portraits of Jackson, initially as a profoundly lonely man with the emotional intelligence of a curious child, to an emotionally manipulative predator well aware that what he was doing was wrong.
Part Two, while less salacious, frankly is the more significant part of the film, as it explores why the two boys attempted to protect Jackson during his two child molestation lawsuits, later culminating in their realizations about their relationships with Jackson after they themselves became fathers. The film’s look at the long term effects of the alleged sexual abuse, not only for the boys (who are now grown men), but in their relationships with their extended families, is devastating.
Technical aspects of the documentary are quite average – at four hours, the film is far too long, with far too many drone shots of Los Angeles and a bizarre, uplifting score that just does not fit with the horrors detailed in the documentary. But it’s content, and Oprah Winfrey’s exceptionally well-done follow up interview with director Dan Reed and the two subjects of the film (on HBO and OWN), is a must see in learning the complexities involved in a crime that affects an estimated 1 in 6 men.
• The Michael Jackson estate is suing HBO for $100 million over Leaving Neverland, claiming the film is in breach of a 1992 non-disparagement contract.
• Vanity Fair reports Jackson accuser Jordie Chandler, in his lawsuit which was later settled for $25 million, drew a picture of vitiligo skin discoloration markings on the underside of Michael Jackson’s penis. Months later, investigators photographing Michael Jackson’s penis noticed a match with Chandler’s drawings.
• If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual abuse, help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and Rainn.org