Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TV Review: O.J.: Made in America (2016)

O.J. Made in America poster
O.J.: Made in America (2016) - Directed by Ezra Edelman

By Kenny Howell

Director Ezra Edelman tries to posit O.J. Simpson as the essential American tragedy and mostly succeeds in this extensive, well-researched examination of the former football players rise and fall.

This is a part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, but is much more expanded  than their usual efforts. The documentary spans almost eight hours over five different episodes, something that could have felt like overkill, but Edelman keeps it in control throughout.

The film starts when O.J. Simpson burst onto the scene at USC and instantly became a star because of his play on the field. From there, he played that popularity to his advantage, building a career with endorsements and acting gigs. His NFL career furthered that, and he became one of the biggest celebrities in the world.

But of course that came all came crashing down when his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were murdered gruesomely, which the documentary doesn't shy away from showing you the aftermaths. What happens from there is pretty well known, as it played non-stop on CNN, the only 24 hour news network at the time. Simpson was acquitted in a trial that leaned heavily on race during a time when tensions were high, and he walked away a free man. Of course, his previous life that he worked so hard to build fell apart, and Simpson spirals out of control.

Edelman really analyzes each facet of his life thoroughly, but also the world around him at the time. The biggest of those time periods was just before Brown and Goldman's murder when Rodney King was beaten by the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as other profile cases in the area where it seemed that African Americans were not getting the justice they deserved. Simpson became a symbol of an African American man that finally got a fair trial, despite for years trying to run away from his African American roots. Edelman's handling of the court trial is enthralling, as the story becomes as much about the battle between the prosecution and defense as it does O.J. Simpson.

Over the five episodes, Edelman creates a brilliant arc of the true American tragedy of O.J. Simpson. In the beginning, there is a sense of dread because this seemingly nice young man is going to turn into a monster. As it evolves, you see a master manipulator take over the world before his karmic fall from grace that is hard to watch. He just collapses so far, you are left wondering at what point this all went horribly wrong.

Rating: ***1/2

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