Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama have left an indelible mark on the film industry with their executive production of “Leave the World Behind.” Starring Hollywood heavyweights Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali, this tense apocalyptic drama, based on Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name, has climbed to the pinnacle of Netflix’s film rankings. However, the film’s success is not without controversy and critique, raising questions about its reception and the involvement of the Obamas.
The Obama Touch
Director Sam Esmail, in an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, revealed the significant role played by Barack Obama in shaping the movie. Drawing on his real-life experience as a former President, Obama offered invaluable insights into the script, grounding the narrative in a plausible depiction of a widespread crisis scenario. Esmail admitted, “I am writing what I think is fiction, for the most part, I’m trying to keep it as true to life as possible, but I’m exaggerating and dramatizing. And to hear an ex-president say you’re off by a few details…I thought I was off by a lot! The fact that he said that scared the heck out of me.”
Obama’s involvement extended beyond technicalities, as Esmail disclosed that the former President provided notes on character development and emphasized the importance of audience empathy. Esmail emphasized, “He had a lot of notes about the characters and the empathy we would have for them. He is a big movie lover, and he wasn’t just giving notes about things that were from his background. He was giving notes as a fan of the book, and he wanted to see a really good film.”
Leave the World Behind
Unlike conventional disaster films that often culminate in characters overcoming their differences, “Leave the World Behind” intentionally avoids a clear moral or message. Esmail, echoing Obama’s sentiments, explained, “It’s not really a message film, it’s more of a reflection on where we’re at as a society. But if there is a message, it’s a warning.” The film’s intentional vagueness in its ending challenges the tropes of the genre and emphasizes the urgency of societal introspection and preparedness.
As the film soared to the No. 1 spot on Netflix, it faced a barrage of opinions from both critics and viewers. However, the divergence between critical acclaim and audience response is evident, with a 75% positive critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a more polarized 42% audience score.
|Rumaan Alam’s novel “Leave the World Behind” released.
|Barack Obama includes the novel in his list of books of the year.
|22 November 2023
|Release of “Leave the World Behind” on Netflix, reaching No. 1 on the film rankings.
|Director Sam Esmail reveals in an interview with Vanity Fair that Barack Obama had a significant role in shaping the script, providing insights based on his real-life experience.
|The film receives mixed reviews from critics with a 75% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, contrasting with a 42% audience score.
|Viewers express frustration on social media about the film’s 140-minute runtime, criticizing its pacing and narrative choices.
|Tech mogul Elon Musk joins the conversation, lampooning the film for a Tesla “inaccuracy.”
|Controversy arises regarding a specific scene in the film, with some viewers claiming it “demonizes” white people.
|Social media platforms buzz with discussions, both praising and criticizing Barack Obama’s involvement in the film.
|The film sparks broader conversations on race, trust, and societal dynamics, reflecting Obama’s commitment to addressing significant issues through film projects.
|December 13, 2023
|Discussions and debates about the film’s impact on societal narratives continue, with ongoing reflections on its themes and controversies.
While some viewers praised the film’s depth and exploration of societal tensions, others were less forgiving, particularly regarding its 140-minute runtime. Social media platforms buzzed with comments expressing frustration about the film’s pacing and narrative choices. One viewer on X/Twitter stated, “Leave the World Behind is a weird, often funny, often stupid, and ultimately cynical mess of a movie.” Another complained, “The film takes an awfully long time to finally arrive at the point, and when it does, the point is cartoonishly pessimistic and narratively unsatisfying.”
Even tech mogul Elon Musk, not one to shy away from expressing his opinions, joined the conversation, lampooning the film for its portrayal of a Tesla “inaccuracy.”
Obama Faces Backlash
While the film grapples with societal tensions onscreen, it has ignited a different kind of debate off-screen. A specific scene featuring a Black couple in bed discussing trust amid chaos has sparked criticism, with some viewers claiming the film “demonizes” white people. The controversy intensified on social media, with one X user stating, “Netflix film called ‘Leave The World Behind’ produced by the Obamas includes a scene demonizing white people.”
Critics highlighted the film’s warning about white people in the context of a world falling apart, with varying opinions on Obama’s role. Sports journalist Jemele Hill praised the Obamas’ executive producer credit as “exquisite, masterful trolling,” while others criticized Obama for his involvement.
Amidst the heated discussions, some viewers appreciated the film’s exploration of crucial themes. One X user, MissMa’am, pointed out, “Leave the World Behind touches on so many important things, but my fave is that when the world goes to s***, black people should not be quick to trust anyone, especially white people.”
A Platform for Discussions
“Leave the World Behind” may have stirred controversy, but it undeniably serves as a platform for discussions on race, trust, and societal dynamics. Reflecting Obama’s commitment to projects addressing significant issues, the film delves into critical themes that resonate with today’s complex social landscape.
A1: Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama executive-produced the film through their company Higher Ground.
A2: Barack Obama provided valuable input into the script, offering insights into how a widespread crisis scenario might unfold, and gave notes on character development.
A3: Many viewers expressed frustration about the film’s 140-minute runtime, citing pacing issues and a narrative they found unsatisfying.