Del and Mladen review ‘Leave the World Behind

Image courtesy of Netflix.

“Leave the World Behind” Starring Julia Roberts as Amanda Sandford, Mahershala Ali as G.H. Scott, Ethan Hawke as Clay Sandford and Myha’la as Ruth Scott. Directed by Sam Esmail. Two hours, 18 minutes. Rated R. Streaming on Netflix.

Del’s take

Early on in “Leave the World Behind,” Amanda Sandford (Julia Roberts) mutters, “I fucking hate people.” Well congratulations, Amanda. The people haven’t let you down.

On this side of the silver screen MAGAdiots are flocking to Google and trashing “Leave the World Behind” with one-star reviews. Their outrage is so dim they can’t even write their own reviews – they’ve copied a template over and over again, rearranging a sentence here, deleting a sentence there, it’s all the same review – which means 99 percent of them haven’t even seen the movie.

Why are they doing this?

Because “Leave the World Behind” was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, and God forbid the Obamas do anything (not including stripping for a men’s magazine or trying to overthrow the government) without the MAGAdiots going on the attack.

Sounds like a movie I could get behind, right? Well, no, not exactly. It isn’t worthy of one star but “Leave the World Behind” is a strangely unsatisfying condemnation of the witless tragedy overtaking America today.

First, the required plot summary … or I could be a sadistic ass and leave it for Mladen. Nah. It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time for miracles. I’ll do it myself.

Amanda, Clay Sandford (played by Ethan Hawke) and their two annoying teenaged children, the perpetually horny Archie (Charlie Evans) and the shrill, selfish Rose (Farrah Mackenzie), escape from New York for a weekend away from the dispiriting press of those fucking people Amanda hates. They flee to an ultra modern, high-tech Airbnb in the woods, which mysteriously becomes Ground Zero for a herd of noble-but-angry-looking deer.

While luxing at this secluded mansion the Sandfords slowly become aware of an “event” that has taken place in the outside world. An oil tanker runs aground at their private beach. The TV produces nothing but snow, and the internet has stopped working, much to the annoyance of young Rose, who’s been binging on “Friends” and lacks only the final episode to complete this chapter in the decomposition of her young brain.

That night, an African American couple knocks on the door, G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la). As it happens Mr. Scott is the owner of their rented uber-tech nest and, incredibly, wants to impose on their weekend to take shelter from a blackout that has affected the city. What ensues, then, is an ugly revealing of the nasty qualities that afflict 21st century America.

“Leave the World Behind” is an examination of the claustrophobia and xenophobia of nesting gone wrong. Amanda’s distrust of the Scotts, and her disbelief that they could even own the Airbnb, illustrates white America’s innate and, dare I say, racist perception of black people. In another scene, Clay Sandford leaves a Latino woman – who is clearly in distress – by the side of the road because he can’t understand what she’s saying and doesn’t want to get involved – refrains of “Build a wall!” Ruth’s inherent hostility toward white people guarantee tense relations between her and Amanda, and all four of the adults flirt with at least the fringes of infidelity. Oh, and then there’s the deer thing: Apparently the deer are pissed off about how mankind has treated nature.

In other words, all kinds of shit is going down the proverbial crapper, all of it at the same time. “Leave the World Behind” is a who’s who and what’s what about the wrongness of America, which left me feeling empty because it never provides a clear description of what exactly is happening – beyond vague references to a cyberattack – and never gives a hint of a solution, or at least a resolution. At times I felt like I was watching an extended episode of “Lost.” Call it the Damon Lindelof School of Ambiguous Storytelling.

The acting is fine – Julia Roberts is a bitch like I’ve never seen – and Ethan Hawke captures an almost George-like zeitgeist (Richard Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) as the ever accommodating, ever-apologizing Clay. Mahershala Ali’s G.H. Scott is deferential to the point of caricature, while Ruth, she of the withering fury, is cynical in a way most Gen-Zers would decry (but in fact is true of that disaffected generation).

Sound effects are spot on. Distant gunshots, explosions, ships running aground and plane crashes – wow! But the musical soundtrack was way too loud and way too intrusive. Or maybe I’m showing my age – never forget I’m a gassy old fart.

“Leave the World Behind” is controversial and I guess if it’s your ox being gored, you’ll hate it (which means lots of one-star reviews from MAGAdiots). It’s got peccadilloes I could crab about all day, but it’s major flaw is that it tries to do too many things at once and, as a result, does none of them well.

I won’t give it a one-star review because we don’t use stars; we use grades. My grade would be a C+. If nothing else it’s a good barometer of your MAGA sympathies.

For God’s sake, don’t be one of those fucking people.

Mladen’s take

But for Del, I would be unaware that MAGAaniacs have inundated “Leave the World Behind” with template reviews. I’m amazed that ERID sycophants can read well enough to know how to use a prefabricated takedown of any movie. ERID, incidentally, is my nickname for Trump. ERID stands for Emotionally Retarded, Intellectually Disabled. An accurate description of the one-term loser poser president. No?

Del is correct and I’ll leave that statement as is without, for example, adding a disclaimer such as “for the first time ever.” “Leave the World Behind,” despite the star power, is vague, unfulfilling, and ennui laden. I hate people, too, but does that sentiment warrant a movie?

Pretty much from the beginning to the end of the film I was asking myself what’s the point. If you have 138 minutes to make the sweeping argument that Mankind, as a whole, is a heap of shit, though some of its individual components are OK, and that democracy is fragile, do it clearly. An example? Another Netflix original film, “Don’t Look Up.” Good god, what’s up with the swarming, judgmental deer or the flamingoes landing in a pool thousands of miles from their habitat? Come on, flamingoes are wading birds. They can’t swim in deep water like freaking ducks. That fact wouldn’t change no matter how their migration patterns are disrupted by inexplicable, hyper-noise that periodically filled the outdoors in “Leave the World Behind.”

I don’t know. Maybe the problem with “Leave the World Behind” is that it’s too realistic. When civilization, I use the term loosely, starts to collapse, it’s reasonable to assume many of us will fail to notice the onset of End Time. And, by the time it occurs to us that what we’ve built we’re now destroying, it’ll be too late to act. Survival will be a simple dichotomy – either you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time or you’re at the right place at the wrong time.

One more suggestion, now that I think even more fruitlessly about the film. If you watch “Leave the World Behind,” consider it inside the framework of social satire. The film ain’t no “Brazil” or “Being There,” not even close, but there’s an underlying absurdity or, oh, ridiculousness to it. The U.S. is disappearing, apparently at the misdirection of a global cabal of elites, but the teenaged boy masturbates to cell phone pictures he surreptitiously took of the almost-woman also marooned at the big, fancy house the Sanfords rented for a weekend getaway. Mrs. Sanford and Mr. Scott, the almost-woman’s father, contemplate sex, though both are married and one of the spouses, Mr. Sanford, is on the property. Yes, Big Picture trouble has arrived but people will want to screw anyway. Ain’t that darkly funny?

Should you see “Leave the World Behind?” Sincerely, I don’t care. See it. Don’t see it. As it turned out, my rationalization for seeing the movie formed after I saw it. I watched “Leave the World Behind” to demonstrate solidarity with Del. Like him, I’m troubled by ERID’s MAGAdiots.

Mladen Rudman is a former newspaper reporter and technical manuals writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” Starring Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and Sergi Lopez. Directed by Guillermo del Torro. 119 minutes. Rated R.

Mladen’s take

Beautifully shot, captivatingly acted, the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” has to be more complex than what appears on the surface, as gripping as the surface can be.

At face value the movie is about a smart, upstanding 12-year-old girl descending into a fantasy world below and about the abandoned mill where she’s staying with her desperate mother and vile step-father, a captain in the Spanish army of fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

It’s 1944 and the captain and his unit are mopping up communists hiding in the mountains. As he flattens a less-than-subservient suspect’s nose with a beer bottle, shoots others with his pistol and tortures a captured partisan, the captain’s pregnant wife ignores the bloodshed and prepares for child birth.

Her daughter tries to escape the horror through imagination. In her thoughts, she encounters Pan, the tattooed, goat-like guardian of a utopian kingdom long dead. He promises the girl eternal life and happiness, as long as she executes three deeds.

On the surface, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is about a girl turning inward to forget the brutal world engulfing her. Trouble is, her adventures in fantasy land aren’t all that wonderful. During her quest, the girl encounters all sorts of creatures – one beast, with drooping skin and eyes in the palms of its hands, eats two of the girl’s dainty fairies.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” strongly suggests, if not outright screams, that even the imaginary places we contrive for peace of mind are tainted by exposure to civilization. We’re viciously human even when we don’t have to be, though in this case the girl eventually journeys to a happier land.

Del’s take

What’s to understand, Mladen? This girl’s life really, really sucks.

Her name is Ofelia and she’s the quintessential stepchild – her real father was murdered by fascists, her mother has taken up with those very same fascists and Ofelia’s only escape is the brutal and scary fantasy world of Pan’s Labyrinth, which is about as much fun as a two-for-one root canal.

While performing the three tasks to prove her worthiness to Pan, Ofelia makes mistakes, disobeys orders, and brings pain and even death into her life … wow, sounds like a shopping adventure at Wal-Mart.

But what matters is where she’s at when the movie ends, and I guess it’s safe to say she’s in a better place.

What I took from this movie is that life – even a fantasy life – extracts its pound of flesh. Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven. Sometimes it’s worth it.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is dark by American standards but it reminded me that even a can of Spam can taste like a banquet when you haven’t had anything to eat in a long time.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.