Sunday, May 9, 2010

One A Week Reviews #19: Final 24: Nicole Brown Simpson and Gianni Versace

A slightly different title for this belated One A Week Review, Final 24 is a Canadian cable television crime series showing the last 24 hours in the life of a celebrated personality. This week we'll be looking at a couple of episodes from season two featuring celebrity murders, the deaths of Gianni Versace and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Gianni Versace: His Final Hours features appearances by his partner, old friends, and celebrity pals like Janice Dickinson. Back-story is interspersed along with historical footage and actor-recreations of the innocuous daily activities of breakfast and window-shopping. Versace's rise to the heights of fashion, from young man bringing sexy to staid Milan to his time at the very top of the couture heap, is related during pockets in the day-to-day structure of of his and partner Antonio D'Amico's life. It's also played in counterpoint against the sad, murderous journey of Andrew Cunanan as their paths inexorably lead to their fatal crossing. It's terrifying to think that one chance encounter with someone can be unregistered by one party and seen as a snub by the other, who'd dwell upon it for years. Yet that's what happened with Cunanan and Versace's first encounter.

Cunanan was traveling the US on a spiraling murder spree (Maureen Orth is here commenting and wrote the book Vulgar Favors about the crime) and stalked Versace and his friends the night before the murder. The tragedy of the spree, the sheer banality of crime, is displayed here effectively. The facts are presented simply, making the selfishness of the crime committed all the worse.

Nicole Brown Simpson: Her Final Hours does kind of belie the statement on the back of the DVD box that the series reflects on the deaths of "Global Icons." Simpson only became an icon of any visibility after her death. Her jogging is shown in contrast with OJ Simpson's golfing, and their days get laid out in parallel.

Sister Tanya Brown and a several old friends reminisce on the Simpsons' courtship and marriage (it's surprising that the very, shall we say, "media friendly" Kris Kardashian doesn't make an appearance here). They married and achieved great success and material wealth, but they also had a fight-filled, tempestuous marriage. Reviews of Brown and Simpson's youths don't reveal anything we haven't already learned, ad nauseum, in the mid-90s. In fact this is all pretty well-trod turf. However, treating it as their lives leading up to the crime, instead of the great international circus that commenced afterward, does make it a lot more humane and easy to relate to. The tragedy of their history of domestic violence is made fresh and saddening again. We forget that people were people before they were pawns in "The Trial of the Century." The ominousness of the ticking clock also conveys the sense of ominousness we all have when we look back on the events in our lives that happen immediately before something goes wrong. Left behind eyeglasses bring Ron Goldman into Nicole's circle right when their end arrives.

Not many people assume that OJ Simpson didn't do it. This production shifts to an evidence-heavy look at the final few minutes and hangs out with the "allegedly" game and the "person or persons." The recreation of their murder is harrowing in the same matter-of-fact banality that made the Versace program so effective.

File footage and interviews are sprinkled in with somewhat mediocre recreations featuring actors who notably in no way resemble the people they're playing. The reenactments bring back memories of the best of Unsolved Mysteries and Rescue 911. There's decent production values here and, while this is some pretty exploitative and morbid stuff, it's not that terribly prurient. This is not classy television. But it's well produced true crime programming that anyone who likes this sort of Dateline NBC crime recreation is sure to enjoy. Soon I'll be taking a look at another pair of season 2 programs, the deaths of rock stars Janis Joplin and Keith Moon.

I do wonder if Juditha Brown tortured herself every single day after for dropping and leaving behind her eyeglasses...

Full Disclosure: 
MVD  Entertainment Group approached me with these discs for review. I welcome opportunities to review, and if you'd like me to review your DVDs, I'm more than happy to. Please contact me at and we'll set that up!

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