“Searching For Neverland”: A Review

Navi Recreating Michael Jackson’s 2007 Ebony Shoot in “Searching For Neverland”

I just watched the premiere of the Lifetime biopic Searching For Neverland and am rushing this review out while the film is still fresh on my mind. First of all, I’ll just acknowledge that I know this review isn’t going to please everyone, as a goodly percentage of the fan base was already gunning for this film from the start. However, despite some reservations, I said I would give it a fair viewing before jumping the gun to condemn it. I am glad I approached it with an open mind.

Here is really the bottom line: One’s reaction to this film is inevitably going to be based on how one felt about its source material, the book Remember The Time by former bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard. Fan reception of the book was every bit as polarizing as any MJ project that gets released. Some praised it as a positive account of Michael’s final two years, revealing his struggles to provide a normal life for his three children despite mounting financial issues and the fallout from the molestation trial. Others condemned it as a violation of the very trust that Michael had placed in them.

I gave the book a fairly positive review back in 2014. I suppose given that I was one of those more charitably predisposed to the book, it may explain why I was willing to give a bit more benefit of the doubt to this movie. Let’s just say, if you were one of those who liked Remember The Time, you’ll probably love Searching For Neverland. The movie is pretty much simply a faithful, condensed version of the book. Which also means if you were one of those who disliked the book, it will no doubt color how you view this film.  but if we put that aside and just view the film on its own merits, I found it refreshingly sweet and endearing in its portrayal of Michael as a family man struggling to keep together the most important thing to him-his life with his children. Sure, the eccentricities are there, but this was not one of those condescending portrayals intended to make him look one dimensional, naive, or mentally challenged. (Indeed, the few eccentricities will be familiar ground to anyone who routinely watches celebrity biopics; Michael does not come across as worsted for them ). For once, I think a genuine effort was made to portray Michael in all his human complexities, which is at least a big step in the right direction. The worst thing for me was Navi’s accent, which was frankly terrible, but overall, his performance was surprisingly nuanced. I think he did a good job, certainly exceeding my expectations. Despite what some reviewers have said, he is not a “dead ringer” for Michael Jackson, but his performance was believable and earnest enough to transcend those concerns (and, in fact, in some segments such as the Ebony photo shoot, he managed to perfectly capture the sizzling sex appeal of mature era Michael. Refreshingly, this was one of the few portrayals in which we actually are able to see what the fans always knew-that this was still a sizzizingly sexy and vibrant man, not the media portrayed “freak”-and, yes, we even get the scene of the “backseat date”). In another refreshing twist, this was the first film I have seen to successfully capture both the wonder and enchantment of Michael’s world view without the kind of patronizing condescension of so many projects. Despite the title, there is no pixie dust and no childishly naive pleas to everyone around him to “just believe.” What we do have is a realistic depiction of a man who once truly believed he could create magic, but has become worn down by a world that has turned its back on him. This is the story of a father who simply wants to find a home again, both for himself and his children.

The Film Balances The Fine Line Between Michael’s Sense Of Wonder And Unique World View Without Resorting To Merely Cliched’ Or Cloying Sentiment.

By far the biggest complaint, one leveled at both the book and film (and an irony not lost on most reviewers) is that the film is still, nevertheless,  an exploitation of a man whose last years were already the stuff of exploitation. Certainly there is something to be said for those arguments. However, perhaps it is my own journalistic background, but I tend to take a more tolerant and long sighted view of these things. Michael Jackson was a public figure, and even his personal life has become public property. The simple fact is that, while fans may know and cherish the knowledge of this Michael Jackson-the devoted father who strove to give his kids an ordinary life amidst the most extraordinary circumstances possible-it is still a side of him that many do not know, and haven’t bothered to know. If even a fraction of those bothered to tune in tonight, they will have met a very different man from the “Wacko Jacko” they thought they knew. And if the film at the very least accomplishes that goal, it is a worthy endeavor. I’m not going to necessarily subscribe to the school that insists every single project made about Michael Jackson is some sort of gross exploitation. Most are, but for every fifty films that are trash, there is always going to be at least one that deserves a fair chance to be seen and heard.

As I had mentioned back when I first reviewed Remember The Time, the one thing that really struck me the most was how they captured the claustrophobic sense of how small Michael’s world had become at that point, a world consisting mostly of himself, his kids, nanny Grace, and the bodyguards. There have only been two books that have successfully shed light on what those last two years were like for Michael and his kids, the other being Dr. Karen Moriarty’s Defending A King: His Life and Legacy (which also originated from Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard as sources). Not surprisingly, this is also a central narrative of the film, and even though it doesn’t dwell on any of the real controversies that created these circumstances, it successfully conveys the pathos of a wildly famous father, his life now tainted by scandal, who is struggling to keep life for his children as safe, secure, and filled with love as possible. The bottom line is that, as much as we may wish to respect Michael’s bid for privacy from a human perspective, his life-both public and private-has long since passed into the realm of public domain. We live in a celebrity dominated culture, where interest in the private lives of public figures continues to be a billion dollar industry, and where the proliferation of biographies,  biopics and “tell all” memoirs are a permanent fixture of our culture. For better or worse, future journalists, historians, bloggers, scholars and, yes, filmmakers, will be telling his story. In this case, at least some genuine and heartfelt effort was made to get it right, even if they may have failed on one or two minor fronts.

Of course, this was not so much Michael’s story as it is Bill Whitfield’s (and to a lesser extent, Javon Beard’s). Like most celebrity memoirs told from the perspective of another party (be it friend, former employee, lover, etc) we already understand that it is going to be filtered through the lenses of that individual’s perception. That is the nature of memoir, for better or worse. In Michael’s case, almost everyone who ever came into contact with him-for all of five minutes-has claimed at some point to have been his closest confidante. Whitfield and Beard are no exceptions. However, as a narrative frame device, it holds the film together well, and Chad Coleman (familiar to Walking Dead fans as Tyrese) gives a compelling performance as Whitfield, a man torn between his obligations to his own family and the surrogate family he has come to love.

There are some controversial aspects, however, although it’s not anything that anyone already familiar with the book won’t know. The worst, and I suppose the one still most difficult to grapple with, is when we see Michael obliviously piling a shopping cart with Christmas gifts for his own kids while supposedly knowing that the body guards had not been paid in months and were not even able to buy gifts for their own kids. But even here, it is not so much an attempt to portray Michael as selfish or disconnected from reality; instead, it is further evidence of just how little control Michael had by that point over his own finances, and indeed even his own life. (As in the book, Raymone Bain is quite villified). Scenes like this are not intended so much to belittle as to humanize, and I liked that the film seemed at least capable of walking that tightrope without tripping to the extremes of either condescension on the one hand, or mindless sychophantism on the other. In other words, Michael is allowed something in this film that he’s very rarely been allowed to have in any film portrayal up to this point, with the possible exception of An American Dream over twenty-five years ago: His humanity. It won’t please everyone, but it is what it is. And it did not detract in the least from the endearing sympathy already built for the character (if we keep in mind this is as much a story with a narrative as a depiction of a real life). If I had not already been in love with Michael Jackson before I watched this film, I certainly would have been afterward, and I think that is the power it has (and again, a huge credit for this must go to Navi’s affecting performance; terrible accent or not, he did manage to capture Michael’s essence without resorting to cloy sentimentality or childish caricature). I also appreciated that the film actually had a sense of humor. It enabled viewers to see a side of Michael rarely glimpsed in these types of films, as someone who could be a bit self deprecating and loved practical jokes. The humor here is endearing, as it was in real life; not in a way that simply makes him look foolish or immature.

This is still a long way from being the perfect MJ biopic (I’m not even convinced such a thing is ever going to be possible) but, as with An American Dream, it is a satisfying recount of one particular chapter in his life, and for bringing that story full circle, a fairly decent companion piece to that film. (This may not be surprising, considering Suzanne de Passe was the force behind both). Understandably, it still leaves gaping holes in the story, even with its two and a half hours’ running time. As some reviews have already pointed out, Conrad Murray becomes little more than a side player, and the insinuation (just as with so many projects both better and worse than this one) is that Michael’s death was more about the bigger picture: The intense pressures of facing the This Is It shows, in which succumbing to Murray’s “treatments” merely becomes symptomatic of a much bigger problem: An inability to cope with the pressure squeezing him from all sides. As usual, this will most likely leave viewers to merely surmise, again, that Michael was indeed a victim, but perhaps more than anything, a victim of his own inability to cope. This isn’t so much a critique of the film as of the source material (even in the book, Whitfield and Beard were irritatingly soft on Murray). However, as far as these things go, it isn’t a fatal flaw of the film. Most viewers are intelligent enough to know that any movie can only cover so much ground, and that frankly, it isn’t really this film’s purpose to faithfully recount the events of those final two months of Michael’s life, in which Whitfield and Beard were no longer actively involved. Indeed, their story with Michael ends when Michael leaves for Los Angeles to begin rehearsals for This Is It.  At any rate, that is another story perhaps beyond the present film’s scope. The events that transpired beyond those cloistered two years of Michael’s life spent in Vegas are certainly well documented enough for anyone who really wants to research further, and this is not a documentary.

For those who chose to condemn this movie out of hand, simply on principle, that is their right but in my honest opinion I think this was as good as a film of this caliber could be, given its limitations (low budget, no access to Michael’s music) and the generally low expectations most fans have come to expect from any movie made about Jackson’s life. Those trepidations don’t come lightly; they have been earned as per my previous post. I didn’t go into this one with high expectations, but within the first ten minutes, I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be watching with a reviewer’s judgmental eye, and was simply caught up in a compelling story of an eccentric but beautiful dad struggling to keep together his beautiful family. Of course, it was a bit cheesy in places; this was a Lifetime biopic, after all, not an Oscar contender. But as these films go, it’s definitely a cut above some of the other recent Lifetime biopics, and as far as movies about Michael Jackson, it’s definitely a step beyond the usual drivel that we’ve been subjected to.

All in all, not perfect but certainly a very sweet and affecting film. Also, the follow up documentary that Lifetime is broadcasting, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Icon, is excellent. I highly urge everyone to check it out. (For those still convinced they won’t be able to stomach the movie, at the very least fast forward to The Ultimate Icon-it’s well worth it!).

I can honestly say, however, that Searching For Neverland has at least redeemed my hope that a decent MJ biopic can still be made. All it takes is a little heart and respect for who the man was. Unfortunately, it will still be found lacking in some regards. Viewers still will not come away with any enlightened view of Jackson’s philanthropy or work as a humanitarian. And they won’t learn anything new about Michael Jackson, the artist (however, as mentioned, the follow-up documentary The Ultimate Icon pretty much covers that ground). What we’re left with is, quite simply, a poignant and tender tale of a father’s love. But maybe that is all it really needs to be.

Now if we can just work on Navi’s accent (lol) and if the estate would loosen the purse strings on Michael’s music, we just might finally get ourselves a halfway decent MJ biopic.

24 thoughts on ““Searching For Neverland”: A Review”

  1. Thanks for this review Raven . I don’t buy books about Michael , but came across Remember The Time in my local library , shortly after it was published. I was pleasantly surprised when I read it , and it was very clear that the bodyguards became very fond of Michael and his children. So it is with a great sense of relief that it appears that this biopic sticks pretty much to the book.

    Living in the UK I don’t think I will get the opportunity to see this for some time . Yes in some ways it is still a form of exploitation as Michael will always be a valuable commodity , but he would have known that too, so I think that opportunities to portray the real man have a place. As fans and admirers , we are only to pleased to continue to tell Michael’s story , so there are instances when we should give others the benefit of the doubt. It may sound a bit strange , but the comparison I tend to make is between a horrible unflattering / photo-shopped image of him in later years , and film footage of the source of that photo. The reality is so very different , and it’s comforting to know that there are those who have genuinely tried to portray a brief chapter in his life , and it would seem have somewhat succeeded.

    Thank you once again

  2. I have to be honest. I didn’t watch the movie because I thought it wouldn’t do Michael Jackson’s life justice. I thought they would only focus on the negatives and make MJ look like the caricature that the media, particularly the tabloids, made him out to be. That’s the same reason I didn’t watch that Lifetime biopic of Whitney Houston. The only film I thought portrayed an honest, human portrayal of Michael was “The Jacksons: An American Dream”. But since you said that you enjoyed this particular Lifetime biopic of MJ, I’ll take your word for it.

    1. “The only film I thought portrayed an honest, human portrayal of Michael was “The Jacksons: An American Dream”.”

      You know, I keep hearing those comparisons and it started me thinking last night: “The Jacksons: An American Dream” has received nearly cult-like status now, but just as with the present film, Michael’s story is still being filtered through a narrative other than his own, where he is more side player than star. For example, “An American Dream” wasn’t Michael Jackson’s story. It was the story of his parents, Joe and Katherine, and what they created/built together. In the same way, the present film is really the story of the bodyguards. Susan de Passe was a producer of both, but there were some major differences. “An American Dream” featured a first rate, stellar cast. They had the input of the Jackson family, including Michael. They had the real music. It remains the only film that has truly humanized Michael’s parents. Lawrence Hilton-Jacob’s portrayal of Joe Jackson is seared into public memory. He was frightening in his rages, and yet his humanity and even genuine care as a parent still shone through. Angela Basset’s Katherine was neither angel nor saint, but a complex woman dealing with her own inner struggles to keep a dysfunctional marriage and family intact. The performances were sincere and believable, and an entire generation has grown up on this film, to the point that it’s often taken as gospel. Among my students (largely African-American) it is the one Jackson film they all know by heart because they grew up with their parents watching it over and over. In fact, once in a literature class when I casually mentioned Joe Jackson as an example to relate to a story we had read, one girl said, “Oh wow, I would’ve never made that connection. I’ll have to go back and watch that movie again,” and I didn’t even have to ask which movie she was referring to. To this day, it remains something of the standard by which all other Jackson films are compared. But as I’ve mentioned before, it is still relatively limited in that it only covers Michael’s life up to the Victory era. That still leaves a plethora of later chapters untouched. For some, that may be enough. I know there is an entire faction of fandom that prefers only to remember and celebrate the youthful Michael Jackson-pre scandal, pre tabloid fodder, pre vitiligo, etc. I think for that faction, also, “An American Dream” holds a special place in their collective memory because it allows them to keep “their” Michael, frozen in time, perpetually twenty-four, with Thriller just released and everything that followed just a blip on the horizon. There is a certain sentiment attached to this film which I think comes from that place. I have to wonder, though, if even that film could still be made today. After all, this wasn’t a sycophantic portrayal of Michael, either. It portrayed him as a very emotionally disturbed adolescent whose family dysfunction was increasingly taking its toll, forcing him to turn inwardly distant and hostile and more emotionally withdrawn as, increasingly, music became his only healthy emotional outlet. If the same movie were made today, it would probably be condemned by 99% of the fandom. The big difference, of course, is that Michael himself sanctioned the film. But beyond that, it had everything to recommend it-a good script and compelling performances. It humanized the family without resorting to the need to “tear down” and I think this is why it has endured. It has become part of the Jackson mythos by now, as entwined with their story as any of the real life events that inspired it.

      1. I think we have to come to terms with the fact that being such a huge cultural influence means that people will forever be fascinated by Michael. Don’t we all read and watch books and films about great characters in our civilisation? From Abraham Lincoln to Frank Sinatra; from Genghis Khan to Albert Einstein; from Elvis to Elizabeth I? We have to accept that we have to share Michael with the world. We must continue to educate and advocate to ensure future generations know the truth (including some of the more difficult stuff) about this very special human being, so that fiction is immediately recognised as such and dismissed by Joe Public. Michael was not perfect and we have to recognise that before we can have any hope of his real life (and death) being understood.

  3. One thing I have to ask you though. Was the actor who portrayed Michael a white man or a black man? Did he dance and sang like MJ? Did he get Michael’s voice patterns right?

    1. Navi is from Tobago, though has been based in the UK for many years. I think he is biracial; mixed black and Hispanic. Here are some photos from his Instagram where he’s not in “MJ mode” so you can tell a bit more. https://www.instagram.com/worlds_no1_mj_impersonator/

      Voice patterns? Yes and no. The biggest issue was that his British accent kept bleeding through, and it sounded very awkward (this was where you get the benefit of a real actor). However, it seems they did make a genuine attempt to mimic Michael’s actual tone and inflections (i.e, he doesn’t speak in that annoying, childlike whispery voice like most bad imitations in these films). His speaking voice-when his accent doesn’t slip-sounds very much like Michael’s voice during this era. In some scenes, like during the reenactment of the London 02 announcement, he was spot on. But then, when the accent did slip, it was quite noticeably bad, and tended to take me out of the film. For some reason, I cringed whenever he would call Blanket’s name (sounded a bit too much like the hyped up Michael in the Bashir doc at times). So as far as the voice, that’s very much a mixed review. The one positive I can say is that I think, for the first time, they really did make an attempt to nail MJ’s actual, natural vocal inflections, rather than merely resorting to the caricature voice. Navi needed an accent coach, however, which it seems obvious he didn’t have. Michael’s voice wasn’t just American; it was distinctly Midwestern with a touch of Southern drawl (stressed accents usually placed on the first syllables of words, etc). I’ve always heard that it isn’t a huge stretch for British actors to do Southern accents, but again, we’re talking actors, and some still manage it better than others. I realize these are nitpicky arguments, as it was an otherwise good performance, but obviously fans are going to have certain expectations. We expect someone to nail it to the point that it gives us goose bumps to hear it. The film had a few of those moments, but then it only made his British accent all the more distracting whenever it slipped through again.

    2. Navi isn’t an actor as such, his whole professional life is based around being an MJ impersonator (which I grant you is a form of acting!). His marketing ploy is that he was “chosen by Michael”, having been used as a decoy a couple of times and performed at Michael’s 40th birthday party. I’ve met him and seen him perform and while he is pretty convincing, he does lack Michael’s energy and charisma. He’s a fan first and foremost and has refused work on other projects which he didn’t consider sympathetic to Michael. Personally I think he was probably the best choice for the tole.

      1. I had reservations about using a tribute artist in the film as opposed to a real actor, but after the first ten minutes or so, those fears dispelled. Other than the constantly slipping accent, he nailed it for the most part. Just as with any biopic of a well known celebrity, there has to be a certain amount of suspension of belief on the part of the viewer, just like we knew that Jamie Foxx wasn’t really Ray Charles, or that Angela Bassett wasn’t really Tina Turner, or Lou Diamond Phillips really Ritchie Valens, or Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t really Johnny Cash, but for a couple of hours, we are able to suspend that belief and just become swept up in the story. Successful biopic performances aren’t really about physical resemblance to the subject (though that certainly helps) but more importantly, about being able to capture that person’s essence. We have to really believe we are seeing them come alive onscreen, and not just being mimicked. Mere mimicry, in fact, is the death knell of any biopic. I knew I was going to be able to tell within ten minutes whether Navi was going to have that quality or not. I adored that scene where he first greets Bill, when we see him over the stair rail, coming down, and he is ever so slightly out of focus, and then he comes into focus as he introduces himself, and we are struck because it’s “that face” that has just come into focus…different, yes, but still, instantly recognizable. It’s a face the viewer is instantly drawn into-no garish makeup; compassionate and inviting, a warm smile and those intense eyes that seem to read one’s soul (Navi has said that people often say his eyes are the feature he has most in common with MJ). That scene was a wonderfully thought out way to introduce Michael-THIS era Michael-to the viewer. It was like, “Let’s bring the real man into focus.” Also, you could tell they worked hard to get every minute detail right as far as Michael’s hair, makeup, style, etc.

        I keep coming back to the accent as the only thing that kept pulling me out of the film. I wish they had invested more time to get the voice right. Like i said before, he had the correct tone and patterns but (suspend belief as hard as I could) it was hard to hear “Michael Jackson” talking like a UK immigrant lol.

  4. Having read RememberThetime 3x I was eager to see this Lifetime film, as I truly believe Whitfield and Beard were devoted to the welfare of Michael and the children during the 2 years in question. Remarkably, the film stayed true to the book. Unfortunately, there is an element in the MJ fan community who believe the extended Jackson family can do no wrong so would be upset at the portrayals of Randy and Joe Jackson; however I’ve read other sources confirming their actions in the film really did happen. And some may also say this film is just one of many which invade Michael’s privacy; however as I both read the book and viewed the film for a short time I felt it wasn’t about the “king of pop”; it was about a man attempting to father his children as best he could under tremendous outside pressures. The safety of his children was his paramount concern in view of continuing very real threats to their lives from some who believed Michael to have been guity, although acquitted. The MJ fan community has for years been clamoring for positivity; in revealing Michael’s devotion to his children, imo this is a very good start.

    1. I think they wisely sidestepped the blame game, as far as who was “right” or “wrong” in the family conflict. The truth was, Michael HAD distanced himself from his family during that time. How much of it was truly his desire and to what extent it may have been a result of those around him cutting him off (as some believe) the facts nevertheless remain. From the perspective of the bodyguards, it was more about them being put in that awkward position-Michael Jackson was their boss, but Joe Jackson was his father, and here we see (at least as portrayed in the movie) that Bill is a father, too, so part of him sympathizes with Joe even though he has to basically tell him to get lost. I felt they were genuinely torn and caught in the middle of the family drama, but their first duty and obligation was to their client, not to his family.

  5. Thank you Raven for your post here in the UK it will be some time before we see this. i have read both books a few times when they came out and they both have a good side and a bad side from what I can remember! I still feel that the only way we can get a true and loving inside of Michael’s life if it comes from one of this children! Maybe in time Prince as a producer will make that wonderful “film”. I have seen Navi perform and he is good he was a decoy for Michael so he did pick up some of Michael’s personal side.It good to know that slowly people are seeing the REAL Michael. Thank you.

    1. I just read on Navi’s Twitter page, that it will be shown in the U.K. on June 25th. That date will always be one of great sadness. It is hard to believe that Michael was murdered eight years ago. It never gets any easier to accept he is gone from us, does it.. The world needs him more than ever now.

  6. Thank you, Raven! I agree with you. I too was drawn into the movie and shed more than a few tears at times. I wish fans shouldn’t be so quick to condemn everything that is put out about Michael without giving them at least a chance… There have been so many horrible movies, that fans should rejoice that we finally have one that shows Michael in all his complexities; as a man who tried to be the best parent he could be under very difficult and unusual circumstances.

    It has been said that Michael belonged to the world, and he did in a very real sense. Many famous people have been written about, movies made, etc. throughout history and Michael will be no different. A genius talent such as Michael, only comes around once in a lifetime. He had such a cultural and musical influence that it is still felt, and seen, in today’s in new artists. His influence will continue throughout time. We can’t expect that everyone is going to “respect his privacy”. It is not going to happen, so we need to be supportive and grateful when a project is done that shows the Michael we love, and why we do care so about him and his legacy.

    I thought it was great that they showed that one back seat scene where the audience saw that he loved women, and that they loved him. Usually all we see is him with a bunch of kids. That went a long way toward putting aside that old meme that he couldn’t have fathered his children as he was either gay, asexual, or only interested in young boys. Ugh!

    I was touched by this movie, and my heart broke for him. He tried so hard to take care of his children, and to keep his head above water. Here was a man who, for most of his life, was able to do and buy anything he wanted, Now, it had had to come to the point where it had all slipped away. It had to be so embarrassing and devastating.

    He was such a strong person at his core, that he dug deep to agree to the “This is It” tour knowing that he may not survive, but he had to do it to be able to care for his beloved children.

    I hope we will continue to see more deserving projects like this. Tonight there is going to be another program on Michael, “Biography: Michael Jackson”. Let’s hope for the best. I’m sure we will see a lot about 1993 and 2005. It’s part of his life’s story, but always hard to see, and hear, as that is what destroyed him emotionally and physically.

    I do hope the children will write down their memories some day. We think we will always remember our loved ones, but with time, memories fade- especially when they were so young when he died. Their memories will be through the eyes of a child, and since Michael did his best to protect them from the realities he was facing, they would not have known what was truly going on in his life.

    I loved the Bodyguard’s book, because it filled in the years before the end, so we can piece together his life throughout the years. It revealed all the shenanigans that were going on behind the scenes, and how Michael was losing control which continues when he reached LA. until the end.

    Another good book that is, unfortunately, out of print, is “My Family: The Jacksons” which was written by Katherine. You get to read about the family from the beginning until they achieved fame.. You can still find a copy on Ebay sometimes.

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said. All of the constant negativity that is now thrown at EVERY MJ project has become discouraging and heartbreaking to see. I am always among the loudest and most ferocious fighters when I see something that is truly disrespectful to Michael or his legacy, but I also believe in being fair and giving new projects the benefit of the doubt before condemning them outright. This was truly a beautifully made, heartfelt film and while I maintain that I respect the rights of others not to agree, it is discouraging to see so many hateful comments being hurled at it by people who never even watched it and have no intention to. I could understand if it was a salacious piece of trash or something as poorly made as the 2004 Man in the Mirror movie, but it isn’t. Sadly, I think it has reached the point where most of the fandom is simply prepared to boycott and protest against anything that gets made about MJ, good, bad or otherwise. We’ve seen the pattern time and again. Fans will protest because a project is estate sanctioned; they will protest when it isn’t. They will protest if the Jackson family is behind it; they will protest because the family ISN’T behind it. They will protest against books written by people who knew him (how dare they exploit his friendship and privacy!) and they will protest books written by people who didn’t know him (how can we trust anything they say; they didn’t KNOW him) and on and on it goes. At this juncture, I am not even sure if a book written by his own children would be accepted without condemnation. They would most likely be raked across the coals, called liars or worse. On the plus side, these kinds of relentless campaigns may help put an end to a lot of the trash, but they will also put a huge dent in the desire to even make the effort to present positive projects. Why bother if, even when you strive to make it as accurate and loving as possible, fans are still going to tear it down? Don’t get me wrong, I think as a fandom we have had some very proud moments in the past eight years. Putting together a united front, we’ve managed to bring to a grinding halt many tasteless projects that were poised to exploit Michael, from the Discovery autopsy special to, most recently, the 9/11 road trip film with Joseph Fiennes and Conrad Murray’s bid to be on “I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here.” (Of course, Michael’s children deserve most of the credit; they were the ones that really tipped the scale on those two, but still it was largely the momentum of fan protests that instigated those movements). But I think a line of reason has to be drawn somewhere. We can’t police everything written or made about a public figure, let alone create a complete bubble around his life or legacy that keeps the rest of the world at permanent distance. I am, and remain, all for demanding fairness and accuracy in any portrayals of Michael Jackson, whether on film or on the page, but I also want to see him understood in all of his complexities, not as some saint, but as a human being. In that regard, I really thought the film was a step in the right direction. We also have to accept that not every book or film is going to capture him 100% nor is any one project ever going to represent the whole of his truth-whatever that is. Every project is going to be shaped by a number of factors, including the unique experiences and filters of those behind the project (how were THEIR memories shaped by MJ; how were THEIR lives impacted by their connection to him) and also by the purpose and vision of that particular project. Each has to be measured and judged on its own merits.

      I have read “My Family: The Jacksons.” A very warm and funny book, full of interesting tidbits (the story of the day Michael was born is a treasure).

      ETA: If it’s any consolation, the film still managed to rake in over 2 million viewers, becoming the 2nd largest cable movie premiere of 2017!


  7. i might also suggest that instead of criticizing, that fans write and thank those who produced it for a a well-done movie. Just like we complain and boycott the trash that is so often released about Michael’s life, we need to give praise when we can. If the powers that be get good feedback, hopefully, they will invest in more decent programming. If fans boycott and complain, then there is not any fiscal advantage to continue to do positive projects.

  8. I agree with everything you said dear Jeanann,I loved the book and I believed it,and I can’t wait to see the movie,and you are so right we have to praise encourage and thank all those people who are trying with honesty to put something positive out there.He was a human after all.

  9. Raven – thank you for your response. As I am in UK I haven’t actually seen the film yet but I can imagine what you mean. Navi does his “Michael” voice when speaking to the audience on stage and I agree, he hasn’t quite nailed it – although perhaps it is not quite so jarring on British ears! 🙂

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