FX’a American Crime Story “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is Must-See TV, whether you like it or not. I veer between awe that something this gay is on TV at all, and then sometimes I’m totally revolted by the horror of all those gruesome murders committed in the ’90s by one Andrew Cunanan. Who was Andrew Cunanan?
He was a hunky male hustler of very rich, usually very old gay men, culminating in his shooting Gianni Versace on the steps of his palatial mansion in South Beach. The violence is graphic beyond belief, for television, and the subject so horrible that it is amazing that it is so well done, that it glamorizes and turns everyone in it into some kind of stars.
Judith Light particularly shines as the wife of murder victim #4, Marilyn Miglin, the Home Shopping Network’s “Queen of Perfume.” She is in complete denial that her real estate mogul husband Lee, was gay. In fact, nearly all the victim’s families refuse to admit their murdered son or husband or father was in any way connected to Andrew Cunanan and the irony is their silence = death, and totally impedes the cross-country police investigation. Andrew Cunanan is the one whose life story is told here, and he is glamorized to the max, just like the life he always wanted to live, like his gay idol fashion designer Gianni Versace, whom he ultimately shot dead at point blank range. He’s like the Talented Mr. Ripley but without the talent.
Episodes I and 2 were kind of astounding, majorly helped by the presences of stars Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin and Edgar Ramirez as Versace himself.Cruz magnetizes as Donatella Versace, his sister, who went on to run the fashion empire, but never learned English clearly. She doesn’t show up until a stupendously photographed entrance at the Miami airport, to crowds of paparazzi. Flash bulbs exploding and shooting at her like guns. She embodies the luxe jet set world we are going to be plunged into for Ep.1 & 2.
Judith Light carries the day and will probably win an Emmy for her brittle Home Shopping Network icon in Episode 3. She carries the glamour if not the Versaces with her, as the series shifts to a completely differently local, the Gold Coast of Chicago, where we are compelled to watch the unfolding horror of her super-rich, 72-year-old husband, being bound and gagged and bludgeoned to death by Cunanan,in a scene in their large garage that is stomach churning, and disturbing in its S&M implications.
Darren Criss is unforgettable as Cunanan himself, formerly of “Glee” where he had no challenges other than to sing and be cute. The cuteness factor is still there, but he spellbinds as the handsome gay boy toy who could kill you. Criss astounds with the length and breadth and depth of his range as he grasps every one of Cunanan’s multiple personalities, most of them evil, but at the same time commonplace.
Many have said that the “Why” of these deaths is not explained, but the answer is simple homophobia and the closet. And since it’s a NINE part series, we still have five more episodes to get into the “Why” Having just read Maureen Orth’s page-turner of a book on which this is based, I know what’s coming in the five remaining scenarios. If you want to know all read the book “Vulgar Flavors.” Ricky Martin, who is openly gay himself, plays Versace’s stricken lover, and is utterly refreshing in his candor(and his nudity) as he is the only one of the major characters who is NOT denying that he is gay.
Where I felt the series stumbled a bit was last night’s Episode 4, “The House by the Lake” where the scene again shifts, this time to Minneapolis, and a time when Andrew had people of his own age to relate to, to fall in love with and kill.
David Madson, “the great love of my love” is shown as a very weak soul. An award-winning young architect from a small town in the mid-west, Cunanan kills David Trail, their mutual friend, with a ball-peen hammer right in front of Madson(Cody Fern). Who he then semi-kidnaps for the rest of the week, then kills him when he tries to escape.
The motives are so murky here, and the writing, and Fern’s performance is no match for the star-studded cavalcade that we have seen heretofore.
But there are five more hour-plus episodes to work this all out. Next week, for instance, in Episode 5, we will be focusing on Victim #1 David Trail (Finn Wintrock).
Set in the ’90’s and brilliantly going backwards in time, it depicts the closeted forbidden loves and lusts of the gay world as it was then. Before gay marriage or any of the rights that we know today.
The police keep dismissing the deaths. as they find them. as merely “gay killings” and therefore of no importance. Until he kills Versace, and that is totally accurate in its’ mundane prejudice and horror.
If all these people only admitted to the homosexuality of the victims, the body count would never have risen so high and the clumsy devil that was Andrew Cunanan, would’ve been caught right at the beginning.
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace” has five remaining episodes that can be seen every week on Wednesdays on the FX channel.