TV Review: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
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After the brilliant first season of American Crime Story, exploring the murder trial of OJ Simpson, I did wonder whether the team behind the hit show would be able to reach those heights again. However, the second instalment, Versace, if at times a little confusing, was an incredible journey into the psyche of a disturbed serial killer. To start with, the name of this instalment of American Crime Story is a little misleading. The show spends very little time on the assassination of the titular character, and the Versace family in general, instead favouring the exploration of the man behind the murder of Versace: Andrew Cunanan. This has led to criticism of the show from some, but I understand why the show took this tack - when it comes to serial killers, we tend to be more intrigued by the killers themselves than their victims, even if one of those victims is themselves famous.
Darren Criss is outstanding in his portrayal of Versace's killer Andrew Cunanan. In a role that is the complete antithesis of his role as charming, openly gay high schooler Blaine Anderson on Glee, Criss shines as he portrays the closeted Cunanan as a charming, manipulative and deeply disturbed killer, whilst also delving into the crushing loneliness beneath. It's an incredible and nuanced performance which somehow has you both feeling incredibly uneasy and disturbed and yet also feeling pity for Cunanan at the same time. The back and forth of the timeline does feel incredibly confusing at times. It works for the overall narrative, building up a complex picture of Cunanan as a killer and how he came to be, but it does get frustrating at times. I often found myself losing where I was in the story because it wasn't chronological, leading to moments of "wait wasn't that person dead last episode?" The ultimate payoff is good and I don't think the story would have been as compelling had it been told in a traditional narrative structure, but it does mean you have to deal with some frustration as the narrative goes backwards and forwards in time. The cinematography of the series cannot be overstated: the visuals are over the top and stunning and it is hard not to be dragged in to the lavish world of 1990's Miami and juxtaposing this lavish background against the sheer horror of Cunanan's actions, is very, very effective. Versace also boasts an impressive soundtrack, with each music choice perfectly fitted to the scene it accompanies.
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