American Crime Story

February 25, 2016


For a show that is based on the most televised murder trial of all time, American Crime Story: The People Vrs OJ Simpson manages to rivet and prick its audience, successfully circumventing the fact that we know what’s going to happen by unleashing two different styles of narrative.

Goosing us in with its trashy veneer, then bludgeoning us with the horrifying, unvarnished details of the case, it shows how the overwhelming evidence against OJ was deflected by a politically warped defence to highlight society’s racist ills.

When Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman are found butchered at her home, the cops rush to her ex-husbands house to tell him the news. It’s not the first time they’ve been there. Some had attended pool parties and tennis matches thrown by OJ, others have dealt with the numerous incidents of domestic abuse. This time they find blood splattered on his car and a bloody glove in his back yard.

A check of his movements quickly establish that he is their prime suspect.

What emerges in that first hour, building to that legendary high speed chase, is a gruesome, gripping and extremely camp tale that proves this well-picked cadaver of a case still bears enough fresh meat to nourish a mediation on race, gender, privilege and political exploitation, that’s as relevant today as when a Kardashian first hogged the limelight.

Big names are cast as legendary figures lending a b-movie air to proceedings, creating a baroque horror that’s whistle sharp on the racist, sexist x-factors that cleared OJ’s name (while muddying the prosecutions). As OJ, Cuba Gooding Jr is like The Rocky Horror’s Frank-N-Furter at his most morose, fuelled by Norma Desmond levels of self-delusion. As Defence Attorney Rob Shapiro, John Travolta is a melted waxwork with eyebrows laid on as thick as his personality . While Selma Blair and Connie Britton are a hoot as a reactionary chorus of socialites, the former playing the wife of Robert Kardashian, father of Kim and best friend of the accused(played here by David Schwimmer as perpetually puzzled).

It’s an all-star drag show, which truly frightens when it lets the celebrity mask slip, exposing the frightening caste system that would rather demonise a professional woman seeking justice, than tar the memory of a sports star white society has accepted as their own.

In a searingly honest portrayal from Sarah Paulson, we watch as the Prosecutor, Marcia Clarke is fired by the incompetence of her colleagues and the vileness of OJ’s actions, fighting the combined evils of celebrity culture, misogyny and the manipulation of white, liberal guilt. Her undoing is tragic to watch unfold.

At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement and the Bill Cosby case find themselves at odds, where the woman running for president is still eyed as more of a shrew than a legend, and yet more Kardashians pout gormlessly over a morally dubious society, The People Vrs OJ Simpson is not stuck for things to say.

It’s to his credit that the usually pointed Ryan Murphy allows the facts to speak for themselves, trusting the audience to pick up on his intonations with out mega-phoning them home.

The continual appearance of the modern day Kardashians is a massive misstep, gaudy window dressing, on what is otherwise a very perceptive legal drama about the way that people have been manipulated into letting the system let them down.

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