Monday, March 26, 2018

TV Show Review: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

In an interesting storytelling structure, the life of a crazed killer who sought to be someone special unfolds. Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) lives in a fancy house near Miami beach and lives a ritzy life when one day after shopping for magazines, he turns around at his gate and encounters Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss). There is a debate as to whether Andre and Versace ever met before with the family adamantly denying it but the FBI claiming they did interact in San Francisco years before. The show creates a fictional night together and flashes back to it where they meet and flirt on an empty stage that could be taken as Andrew's fantasy or a real meeting. Versace's live-in boyfriend Antonio D'Amico (Ricky Martin) rushes out to find Versace bleeding out on their front steps as Andrew runs off to evade the police.

The film works backward as Andrew arrives at Miami Beach and begins to stalk Versace and take advantage of older gay men. Versace's sister Donatella (Penélope Cruz) warned Versace of the dangers of the world and has to deal with the fallout of the company after his death. Andrew meets another Ronnie (Max Greenfield) and together they search for ways to make money and drugs to take. Versace deals with the revelation that he is infected with HIV and his sister blames Antonio. The show puls away from the two main characters and uses other characters to explore Cunanan's insane murder spree. Marilyn Miglin (Judith Light) sells perfume on television and flies back home to her husband, the architect Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell) only to find him dead. The cops try to track Lee's car that Andrew stole but it gets leaked to the media and the killer abandons it.

Cunanan's murder spree began with Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock)who he was jealous of for his relationship with David Madson (Cody Fern). Andrew hit him over the head with a hammer and forced David to run with him. David confronts Andrew about all his lies and is murdered for it. As Versace comes out on national television, Jeff Trail is forced to leave the Navy because of his homosexuality. Jeff meets Andrew at a bar and starts to become comfortable with his feelings but Andrew sends an embarrassing letter to Jeff's parents when Andrew sees Jeff flirting with David. Before Andrew murdered these two young men, he took advantage of older men like Norman Blachford (Michael Nouri) who cuts Andrew off when he asks for more money. Before Norman, Andrew was in a relationship with another old man Lincoln Aston (Todd Waring), but Lincoln catches him spending money on David before he is murdered for being gay. Andrew witnesses this murder dispassionately. 

The show goes even further into the past of victim and murderer showing Versace's early passion for dressmaking and Andrew's upbringing. Andrew's father Modesto Cunanan (Jon Jon Briones) believes in the American dream and scams his way through stock fraud while being abusive to his wife Mary Ann (Joanna Adler). He dotes on Andrew convinces him that he is special. The finale returns to the days after the murder when Andrew hides out in a houseboat starving and watching the news coverage of Versace's funeral and the pursuit of him. As the SWAT team invades his house, he takes his own life.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace is a side story but a step down from the stellar first season of this wild series. The show focuses on the victims which was interesting but Darren Criss's excellent performance as Andrew Cunanan is just so disturbing to revisit week after week for nine episodes. I wanted to learn more about Versace and enjoyed Edgar Ramirez in the role but they only showed bits and pieces of his life leading up to his death. I had heard that they first attempted to do a series in New Orleans after Katrina but that got sidetracked. Still, this story was really interesting even if it can't live up to the previous season.

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