Murder. Fashion. Perfection — elements making up everything Ryan Murphy has produced. Okay, Glee didn't have any murders. Yes, Nip/Tuck didn't drone that much on themes of fashion. But Murphy's shows always, in some form, document the errors that come about as humans strive to change their inherent ugliness.
Thus, it's no surprise that Murphy's artistic vehicle has chosen to dwell on The Assassination of Gianni Versace, the second installment of his wildly successful American Crime Story anthology series, whose freshman season got everyone talking about the O.J. simpson murder trial again more than 20 years later.
Versace recounts the events leading up to the Italian fashion designer's murder in 1997, but how accurate is it? Marcia Clark, in different interviews, said the show's O.J. adaptation pretty much got everything right, save for some narrative aberrations introduced for dramatic effect. On the other hand, the Versace family itself has denounced the second season, calling it "a work of fiction."
But of course, films are never meant to be documentaries. Ultimately, the question is if Murphy's second American Crime Story attempt any good? Here's what the critics are saying:
New York Times: "At some point we'll all have to grapple with the idea that the warped compassion of the modern true-crime boom implicates its audience and that viewers are greedily lining up to be part of a lurid long tail of suffering and despair. If The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story were a little more interesting, maybe it would be that lightning rod. But instead it's a surprisingly inert, if lushly imagined, tale."
NPR: "It's hard to know where facts stop and fiction starts in this story. Miglin's family has denied he knew [Andrew] Cunanan. Versace's family released a statement last week criticizing the series calling it, quote, 'a work of fiction,' which FX and Murphy deny. Ultimately, this American Crime Story is an uneven and unsatisfying account of a damaged young man who sought immortality through infamy."
Cinema Blend: "The Assassination of Gianni Versace isn't exactly the most lighthearted series ever to hit the airwaves, and there's a certain heaviness to it that probably wouldn't be ideal for binge-watching. That said, the series is definitely worth the watch. It's not The People v. O.J. Simpson 2.0 and it's not something that has been done before on broadcast television. In a TV season filled with an abundance of scripted shows, The Assassination of Gianni Versace is a unique and standout series worth tuning into each work."
Rolling Stone: Although the Versace family has already denounced the series, this new American Crime Story presents the designer as a genuinely heroic figure: a visible gay man in the Nineties, living outside the closet in ways that would have been inconceivable a decade earlier. Part of the emotional power of Assassination is that the designer, in his own way, was helping the world make the transition into a different place — a transition he tragically didn't live long enough to see.
Deadline: "There is a search for meaning in the American Dream and the actualized self in the latest American Crime Story, which the Versace family has slammed as 'distorted' and 'a work of fiction.' But while worthy, like the real-life hunt by the FBI for Cunanan, it stumbles on the path."
People: "Titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace, it's a fitting subject for season 2 of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story. The show's first season, The People v. O.J. Simpson, elevated rubbernecking to an art. This, too, is a juicy saga, both outrageous and tragic: Cunanan's murderous, three-month spree was senseless, sensational and scary — he all but rampaged across the headlines — and his suicide as authorities closed in left fundamental questions about his motives and his psychology unresolved."
The Guardian: "If [The People v O.J. Simpson] took the gruesome murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and wove them into a fraught tale of racial politics, Versace uses its eponymous victim to tell a story about being gay in America: the seclusion and loneliness of the closet, the pain of stymied desire, the necessary accumulation of lies, and the confusion of a post-Aids-crisis, pre-Will-and-Grace world in which tolerance is nascent but skepticism still pervasive."
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres Jan. 17 on FX.