American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018)

Directed by Tom Rob Smith

Written by various

The Assassination of Gianni Versace is American Crime Story’s follow up to their massively successful first season; The People vs. OJ Simpson. Season Two was perhaps destined to pale in comparison to the world-renowned sensationalism that was Season One, but it progresses through the stranger-than-fiction true events with gripping aplomb, dissecting the facets of Andrew Cunanan’s demise to provide a well-timed and dispersed storyline. Prior to watching this, I knew little about the murder of Gianni Versace, except for the fact that he was famously gunned down on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. Granted, many of the finer details of the story are speculation due to circumstances, but the writers claim to have stuck as closely to the facts as possible.

Director, Tom Rob Smith, took a delineated approach in attempting to explain the blurry motives of Cunanan, a spree-killer with delusions of grandeur and a fondness for compulsive lying; showing the demise of Cunanan’s mental health from the most recent event of Versace’s murder and moving backward through the timeline, leading to the original triggers.

Well known names, and some lesser known but recognisable faces make up the cast; Penelope Cruz is a frankly flattering interpretation of Donatella Versace, perhaps if she looked as though she’d spent a few more hours on a sun bed I may have been more convinced, but she nevertheless gives an emotional and effective performance. Edgar Ramírez is incredibly similar in appearance to the late Gianni Versace and portrays him in a sympathetic manner in accordance with the stories of what Versace was apparently like. However, Darren Criss, of Glee fame, is the standout performer in his portrayal of the irritatingly charming and delusional Andrew Cunanan.

ACS highlights the lack of understanding, as well as outright hostility towards homosexuality in the 1990’s, especially from law enforcement. It presents the stark and harsh realities of being a gay man at this time, with emotional storytelling and insights into shame around identity. This not only affected the reporting of concerns to police, but also how the events were dealt with by law enforcement.

Sunshine, neon and depravity are suitably employed; as even a story about Versace’s death cannot be told without stunning us with a visually captivating setting, displaying the disparity of Floridian gaudiness with the rich Mediterranean decadence of Versace’s world. The soundtrack of upbeat 90’s dance music makes for a suitably sinister contrast to the events of the story and the complexities of relationships, both familial and sexual provide all the necessary elements for a gripping tale.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace not only makes an excellent follow up season to The OJ Simpson Story, but in many ways is a more disturbingly elaborate tale of the dissolution of a state of mind and how it drove one man to go on an explosively murderous affair with his ego.

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