HOLLYWOOD – With the Rapture all the rage, the new Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta scripted drama, The Leftovers on HBO asks the question couldn’t God have taken Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta as well.
The pilot sets up its premise with alacrity. One day a bunch of people disappear, skip to a few years later and everyone is post-9/11ing the shit out of it, including a maudlin Sheriff (Justin Theroux), whose wife has joined the Guilt Remnant, a religious cult and whose daughter is a hockey cheat and whose son has run away to follow a messiah type figure. There’s a crackpot Christopher Eccleston and the small town mayor played by Amanda Warburton.
So what’s wrong with it?
Right from the get go when a baby disappears from the back seat of the car, the mother weeps that terrible dry eyed weeping, where you just scrunch up your face. It looks awful. I can’t believe the director Peter Berg who brought us Battleship couldn’t see… oh wait.
This weird disconnect between a weighty emotional moment and delivery can be seen in more trivial but ultimately telling aspects. No one smokes properly. They all smoke cigarettes like people who aren’t so much smoking as stopping small cigarette fires from spreading.
And no one swears properly. It’s like HBO told Lindelof he could swear but he doesn’t know how to. He’s like Kirk and Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home trying to blend in with the tough guys: ‘double dumb ass’. His characters all swear like they’d be more comfortable speaking Elvish.
All these criticisms might seem trivial if they don’t all link up to one big criticism which is that The Leftovers is trying to be adult drama, but ultimately is juvenile. Characters behave in ways that make no sense. Tell me something impossible, but not something implausible. I get that 2% of the population can disappear but I don’t get how ANYONE could forget they have a dead dog in the car. ‘Tell me about what a dead dog was doing in your car!’ the Sheriff’s ‘foul’ mouthed daughter says. Oh yeah. That.
So the dialogue is cloth-eared, the characters don’t make much sense, the smoking, crying and swearing are all unconvincing – as is the hedonistic party where instead of spinning a bottle they spin an app – but is The Leftovers complete shit? I’m not sure I can be bothered to find out.