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The Assassination of Gianni Versace first impression: After People v OJ, this show is another feather in Ryan Murphy’s hat

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story started with a promising premiere episode. With strong performances in the first episode and an engaging plot, this will leave you hooked.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
January 20, 2018 1:30:23 pm
assassination of gianni versace The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story stars Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace has been long awaited and fans were more than ecstatic when creator Ryan Murphy preponed this to be the second season of American Crime Story instead of the third. The story has elements that capture the voyeuristic nature of the audience. What happens behind closed doors of celebrities and how a failed FBI manhunt led to the murder of the fashion icon Versace make for a compelling TV series.

While in the first season, The People v. O. J. Simpson, we never saw the crime happen but witnessed the aftermath, the speculation and the court case, here we witness the gruesome murder in the first 7 minutes of the premiere episode.

The show starts off by displaying the grandeur of Versace’s Miami mansion, the immense wealth and the innumerable servants showcase the king-like lifestyle that Gianni enjoyed. In his pink bathrobe and servants who are ready with a glass of juice as he descends from the steps of his palatial home, we get a glimpse of the life he led, fearlessly.

While we are getting an introduction of the murder victim, we are also introduced to the murderer, Andrew Cunanan, played by Darren Criss. The closet gay guy, who tells people what they want to hear, admires Versace, just like he admired other powerful men and isn’t shy about lying in order to get what he wants. He makes up stories about his family in the Philippines, his father running off with a farm boy and him writing a book and he tells them without blinking an eye. Darren, also has a striking resemblance to the real Cunanan, which makes the story look more authentic.

The first episode explores the social standing of the LGBT society, the homophobia, the assumption that a gay partner would be a pimp; all these questions come up in the police investigation which only goes out to show that a common man just wasn’t aware of what a same sex relationship looks like.

Cunanan’s motives to murder aren’t pronounced out loud in the first episode but all hints point to the fact that it was the social stigma and his inability to deal with his sexual orientation that led him to commit the heinous act. After the audience is shown the murder scene, the show moves to flashback where we see the apparent first encounter between the murderer and the victim in a San Francisco nightclub. The encounter is awkward at first when Versace tries to brush him off but soon the conversation progresses with heavy sexual undertones. This is where you realise that the murder wasn’t as volatile as it first looked like.

In long sequences without any dialogues and with some classic opera music playing in the background, the series sets the tone, they aren’t going for cheap tricks but instead taking the fancier route. Certain scenes have Ryan Murphy’s signature and those compel you to stick to the series. There’s one where a passerby is auctioning off the only polaroid of Versace’s dead body and one where a fan runs towards the bloodied steps, dips a magazine paper in it and saves it like a souvenir in a plastic bag. This, also heavily focuses on the crazy celebrity fandom that has engrossed America for several years, where even the dead man’s blood is a prized possession.

The show is based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors but the Versace family has declared this as a piece of fiction. Ryan Murphy believes this to be a piece of docu-drama based on real events.

Penelope Cruz comes in the later part of the first episode and plays Versace’s sister, Donatella. Her strong headed attitude makes her look like an ice queen but that is the need of the hour. The emphasis on family and not trusting strangers is repeated many times with suspicious glances to Versace’s long-time partner Antonio D’Amico, played by Ricky Martin. Ricky is stiff and until now hasn’t contributed much to the show, even though he had enough opportunity. Edgar Ramirez’s Versace is fabulous. He’s flamboyant but also sincere, his enigma is believable and enchanting and his scenes with Criss’ Cunanan keep you hooked enough that you don’t want to miss out on a single moment.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story is engrossing and we’re looking forward to the remaining eight episodes but we wonder how they will explain the ‘assassination’ in the title.

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