The next chapter in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story anthology is The Assassination of Gianni Versace, and a new trailer has dropped, giving us a look at what Murphy has done with this story. The answer seems to be: render it a soap opera. Which is basically what Murphy does, make soap operas with a little genre flare. But the first ACS, The People v. O.J. Simpson, had a little extra something in the tank as it made connections between the spectacle of Simpson’s trial and today’s reality-TV celebrity culture. Watching the Versace trailer, I’m wondering what, if any, larger cultural connections Murphy might be making.
The story is very dramatic, of course, involving Versace, who mixed high and low influences in a way I’ve always thought of “classy tacky”, and his sister Donatella, who either saved the House of Versace after her brother’s death, or degraded it, your mileage may vary. Edgar Ramirez makes for a more physically convincing Gianni than Penelope Cruz makes of Donatella, but Cruz shows a steeliness I like. And then there’s Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, who gets the most screen time.
I’m not going to lie, I wish this was Finn Wittrock, who has a bigger range and more versatility. I get what Criss is going for, with Cunanan’s seemingly harmless dork exterior, but I’m not buying the tortured screaming into the ocean bit. It’s just a trailer, maybe he’ll come across better in the whole series, but I will remind you that Taylor Kitsch is immediately and completely convincing as David Koresh in the trailers for Waco. I hope the show works out better than this trailer is making it look, because the Versace story has everything—fashion, sex, celebrity, power, fin de siècle extravagance, and not just murder but SERIAL murder. There is a tawdriness inherent in the tale, I just hope there’s more to the show than soap opera tacky.