The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson promises to let the voice of the victim speak freely, but Mena Suvari’s Nicole comes through as a bundle of passé feminist clichés.
We know how this story ends. If you got lost contemplating Mena Suvari’s evergreen, perfectly rising cheekbones and missed the title, I will tell you now so you don’t have to worry about that later: someone gets killed in this film, and that someone is Nicole Brown Simpson. You might have heard about her. She was the beautiful and blossoming stranger (she was half German, and it showed in the cruelly fascinating cut of her eyes) who came to America and was allegedly killed by her ex-footballer husband, O. J. Simpson, after divorcing him.
It was quite a sensation in the media back in 1994, when everything happened. Still, ‘everything’ is not enough. Many blank spaces are still to be filled. For instance, O. J. was never actually convicted for murdering his wife. Therefore, we seem to be in need of a powerful counter-argument – should we say: broadened argument – to the kindly enough, politically correct products that have been tailor-made for our home screens.
We need unbiased opinions and political talks on the matter. And this is precisely what director Daniel Farrands aims to do in his latest re-adaptation on film of this half-cold case, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Unlike what was previously shot on the same subject matter – for example, Fox’s The O. J. Simpson Story or FX’s The People vs. O. J. Simpson, both first released in the mid-‘90s – Farrands’s film takes a declared stance from the very first scene, uncompromisingly promising us to let the all-too-underestimated voice in this obnoxious affair – the victim herself speak freely.
Everything in the film thus revolves around Nicole (Mena Suvari). Everything is presented from her specific point of view in order to let the audience identify with her character and see ‘how things really were’ before and after her divorce from O. J. . Even when the Nicole-illusion is broken by inserts of point of view shots, replicating the gaze of the alleged killer in an Argentesque style, we cannot but feel we are the stalked ones, and not, au contraire, the stalking baddie. And maybe this very emotional one-sidedness is the Trojan horse in Farrands’s project. In fact, though setting a noble, high aim for itself, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson comes through as a quite clichéd film on women’s denied right to freedom and empowerment.
Farrands’s feminist reappraisal of the facts slides along typical lines such as the hostility of patriarchally-led bureaucracy and institutions towards the female presence, misogynistic remarks on the gorgeous physical appearance of both Brown and Suvari, and the objectification of the female body. Notwithstanding his noble intentions, this quite clichéd social criticism sounds more than passé in the era of the #MeToo movement. Moreover, the director denies Nicole’s independence the self-same moment he states it: Farrands’s version of Brown does not work, nor ever undertakes something of her own free will.
Suvari’s (as well as other characters’) unconvincing acting and blunt enough lines do nothing but sharpen our disappointment towards The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Which could have been an insightful re-reading of one of the murder mysteries of our times. But that ended up in a foreseeable and rather boring whodunit with no great contribution to make neither to the interpretation of the Nicole Brown & O. J. Simpson case, nor to the wider literature on the subdued representation of women in contemporary pop culture.
The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson will be available on Digital HD from 9th December, 2019.