I’ve recently just finished watching the series American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.’
I have to say that this for me, was the best television production that I’ve seen this year.
There was nothing that stood out as jarring or that you thought; ‘it would have been so good apart from XYZ.’ Like its predecessor, the OJ trial, it followed some of the same themes such as celebrity and fame, but was I felt even more ambitious.
The writing was astounding. It was written by Tom Rob Smith, (author of bestselling novel Child 44 (Child 44 Trilogy 1) and based on the non-fiction book Vulgar Favours: NOW A MAJOR BBC TV SERIES about the Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, The Man Who Killed Gianni Versace It told the tragic story of Andrew Cunanan played by Darren Criss (who is tipped for an Emmy for his amazing performance).
The narrative of the story was told in reverse order except for the first and last episodes. This was a brave thing to do and made it interesting for the viewer, as you initially saw a murder victim, then learnt more about them and their lives in each subsequent episode.
The real-life story is complex and strange, Andrew Cunanan was a psychopath and in the initial episodes you have very little sympathy for the man, after all he did murder five men. However, what was so clever about the writing and Darren Criss’s portrayal, was that, by the final episode, it felt like a Greek tragedy. Here was this man, who could have had a good, happy life, but his upbringing was so messed up that he didn’t really have much of a chance, though he still should not have chosen to murder, that’s for sure.
The directing and broader casting was excellent also, even though Gianni Versace’s name was in the title of the book, the story did not largely focus on the man and his family (apart from their use as a framing device) and expertly, as a direct comparison to Andrew’s life along the way, especially in the final scenes of the last episode which was very powerful.
I felt that Greek tragedy was a good analogy to use for the piece because of the symbolism, Versace’s villa in Miami looked very grand and had neo-classical references throughout in the décor. Versace was also shot on the steps of his villa, echoing the assassination of Julius Caesar on the steps of the Senate.
Music was used to great effect in the series with a sweeping orchestral tune of Adagio in G Minor in the opening scenes, which made you feel that you were watching a theatre tableau or the beginning of a grand opera rather than a TV series.
The lighting used should also be mentioned, as neon pink, purple and blue lighting was used to great effect in the series. This was to do two things I think, to show that the piece was ‘retro nineties’ and the pink neon represented to me Miami and the pink neon flamingos that we associate with the motel signs there. I also read a piece recently that talked about bisexual lighting being neon purple lighting used on screen, am not sure if that was the intention here as Andrew was most definitely homosexual. Whatever, the lighting added a surrealistic tone to the piece, it made it feel dream like and perhaps was also a nod to the nineties play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches & Perestroika (NHB Modern Plays) which shared some similar themes with this show.
The story really did a good job of giving a voice to the victims of Andrew’s crimes. They were not made to look as just victims, in fact they were often very kind and generous to Andrew and often felt sorry for him, but he completely took advantage of them. The series did touch on the US AIDS epidemic, as people were still dying in droves at the time and it did highlight the difference between the rich and the poor, in that if you were rich you could afford all of the drug treatments necessary, but if you were poor, you suffered badly.
Overall, I can’t recommend this series highly enough, it really was a superb piece of television in all areas, so if you can, go watch it! You can buy the first episode here: Man Who Would Be Vogue, The