Surprisingly, FX’s dramatization of the O.J. Simpson trial wasn’t over-the-top and campy — as one might expect from a Ryan Murphy production. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” feels as riveting and timely as this case has ever been.
With the backdrop of the Rodney King beatings by L.A. policemen and the riots, a white woman and a white man are found dead in tony Brentwood, California. She is the ex-wife to one of the most famous athletes in the U.S., O.J. Simpson. And the man is a young waiter who may or may not have been dating her.
Soon, all eyes are on Simpson. Suspicion is rising around him and the police are closing in. Then, the whole nation is standing in front of television sets watching Simpson being chased by police on the freeway in a white SUV.
We would then be glued once again to our sets as Simpson’s trial would hold the nation’s attention again. And then the fear. If he’s found guilty, will we have the King riots again?
That’s what we know. “American Crime Story” shows us that and then the stuff we didn’t know. What each player stood to lose and win, how money and status could twist the judicial system, and how instant celebrity could crush even the strongest of people (and cases).
It’s really the reason people are going nuts over Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” and, before that HBO’s “The Jinx.” There’s an overwhelming feeling that there’s something wrong with the criminal justice system.
OK, so civics lesson aside, there’s some great acting in this.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. gives a uniquely adept take on Simpson under pressure, the way he could switch moods on a dime. It’s fairly frightening.
Sarah Paulson disappears into Marcia Clark as she goes from HBIC to melting in the spotlight of this trial.
And Courtney B. Vance was made to play Johnny Cochran, the man who would later represent Michael Jackson, Sean Combs, and Snoop Dogg.
Those performances should help you get through that of John Travolta as attorney Robert Shapiro. His take on the character is almost too cartoon-ish for words.
Then, there’s David Schwimmer as sappy Simpson confidante and member of the defence team, Robert Kardashian. Yes, the late father of Kim Kardashian, et al. Really, Kardashian wasn’t needed for his legal expertise. He was Simpson’s babysitter. One early scene has Simpson prepared to commit suicide with Kardashian pleading him not to, especially in his daughter Kim’s bedroom. I want to give him a pass for the sentimentality as that’s how the role was written. As Jessica Rabbit said, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
We could’ve done without the young (years before a sex tape entered their lives, young) Kardashian kids showing up here and there, as if to serve some need to connect us to the present or serve as a knowing wink when their father speaks to them about the travails of letting fame go to one’s head. That’s the Ryan Murphy touch I expected more of.
Other than those aspects that threaten to pull you out of the drama, “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” will become an obsession.
Watch the latest trailer for the series below:
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