Review: Truth and lies are the focus of ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’

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Review: Truth and lies are the focus of ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’

Maybe Jack Nicholson was wrong. We can handle the truth.

The #MeToo movement is giving a microphone to once unheard voices. Political lies are constantly challenged. At the Golden Globes, Oprahs rousing speech asserted “the most powerful tool is speaking your truth.”

But Ryan Murphys second installment of American Crime Story shows the dangerous difference between the absolute truth and “your truth.”

Gianni Versaces 1997 murder didnt culturally resonate like the O.J. Simpson case, the subject of the shows first installment. Ultimately, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story doesnt have as much story to tell. Instead, its portrait of a killer during 1990s homophobia, told through a modern lens.

The FX series is based on Maureen Orths book Vulgar Favors, which focused not only on the Italian fashion designers murder on the steps of his Miami Beach home but also the FBIs botched investigation of Andrew Cunanan, a gay serial killer. It isnt an authorized biography of either party. In fact, the Versace family has widely denounced the show and book.

Penelope Cruz, who plays Versaces sister and muse, Donatella, and Ricky Martin as his partner, Antonio DAmico, both give award-worthy performances. And Edgar Ramrez brings a warm, poetic soul to Versace. Its really a shame that theyre all sidelined by Darren Crisss phenomenal character development as Cunanan.

The 27-year-old killed four other men before aiming the gun at his most famous target and then himself. At first, his motivations are unclear, the victims somewhat unknown. Here the show takes a page out of Murphys American Horror Story. The gruesome murders seductively scored and shot are senseless.

Eight of the nine episodes provided to critics unfold the story in reverse, beginning with Versaces murder and ending with Cunanans childhood. Additional flashbacks further confuse the timeline, especially when youre not binging in one sitting. However, its an effective way to shift focus onto the victims and ultimately Cunanans destructive descent.

Criss is fully committed to this role and proves hes graduated from his Glee years, showing off Cunanans strutting confidence and loathsome eyes. Hes a con-man swiftly moving from calm to manic. Slowly, Cunanans carefully cultivated persona is exposed.

“Every time I feel like Im getting close to you, you say youre someone else,” pleads Cunanans college friend in the first episode.

Cunanan first kills his friend Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock), a retired Naval officer living in Minneapolis with Cunanans obsession and next victim, David Madson (Cody Fern). As the two gay men try to live openly, providing insight into gay identity, Cunanan basks in his own alternate reality. Hes gay; hes straight. He comes from a wealthy New York family. Hes working for Versace, designing costumes for operas. He manipulates every situation, believing hes giving others the reality they want.

In contrast, the series weaves in Versaces past, despite the two leads sharing little screen time. After surviving a health scare, he chose to publicly come out in 1995, despite Donatellas reservations that it could ruin the family company. Versace had passion, talent and fame; but he also had support from the people he surrounded himself with.

Fearing loneliness and abandonment, and yearning for love and adoration, Cunanan ended the lives of the people closest to him and someone who got in the way. And one life he could never have.

The show urges reflecting on sincerity and how everyone occasionally warps reality. Homophobia still exists; #fakenews is constantly thrown around in haste. Speaking any truth can have good or ill intentions, for oneself or for others. Ultimately, the perils of truth affect both sides.

The docudrama is based on a real 20-year-old crime, and it might not be entirely accurate. As Cunanan liked to bend pieces of the truth to entertain and impress his audience, Versace does the same.

Contact Brittany Volk at [email protected] Follow @bevolk.

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