Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Assassination of Gianni Versace by the Coward Andrew Cunanan

Watched The Assassination of Gianni Versace and after 2 seasons of being sucked into true crime dramas based on stories I didn't think I had any interest in I'm ready to call American Crime Story on FX something special.
Noticed the Versace season was written by Tom Rob Smith which makes two TV mini series from him I've enjoyed (also London Spy). Nice to see a novelist I dug (the Leo Demidov trilogy - Child 44, The Secret Speech, Agent 6) make a successful medium swap and have a distinct voice that's different from the one I enjoyed in their books.

The Versace family have the big names in casting - Edgar Ramirez (whom I'm still waiting for a really great English language role from - after Carlos I was sure he was gonna be huge), Penelope Cruz and Ricky Martin (who knew? I didn't. Was halfway through the season before I looked up who that guy was).

But the real standout performances are in the killer's story line.

Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan comes across like a cross between Patrick Bateman and Tom Ripley a social climber smart enough and smooth enough to get places, but hounded so fiercely by vanity, jealousy and insecurity never to stay put or leave good enough alone. He's a monster, but there's just enough real pain in his life that the waste of it is human tragedy.

The structure of the season allows for dimension to be added to him slowly for maximum emotional payoff - a payoff frankly I didn't think they could pull off. I'm not sure if Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors (the basis of the season) follows a similar structure, but I doubt the televised version would be half as effective if presented in strict chronological order.

If he'd not killed Gianni Versace nobody would care about Cunanan's other victims and that's where the real heart of the story lay for me. The human wreckage is well-observed in the latter episodes and I'm happy I had the opportunity to watch the season in a week rather than over the course of a couple of months through appointment viewing.

In particular Jeff Trail (played by Finn Wittrock) emerged as a character of real interest. I don't know how accurate any of the portrayals are (you can investigate if you like - I looked at this piece on TooFab which includes the CBS interview with Trail about gays in the military during the era of Don't Ask Don't Tell) - but jeez, what a heartbreak of a story his was.

What will season 3 focus on? Don't care. At this point I'm tuning in (or y'know going to watch it when it's on Netflix) because it's clear the producers have way different instincts for crime stories than I do - especially the glitz and glamour of high-profile stories - but also the skill to tell those stories in ways I find compelling. Maybe I'm a sucker.

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