Friday, April 08, 2016

The People V. O.J. Simpson

Oh hi. You know I've been thinking about the show ever since it ended. I was on the Twitter and I instructed everyone not to tell me how this ended. No spoilers! I wanted to see what happened to O.J. The People V. O.J. Simpson will be remembered for many things, one of them has to be the great casting. Here's a few of the actors who turned TV's most popular reality series into episodic television.

Sarah Paulson- Marcia Clark-Here's a casting of fancy, artistic license you will. I do not remember Marcia Clark being this attractive. It worked for the movie. Paulson eerily captured Clark's interesting vocal patterns, gestures and essence. It's not hyperbole to say Paulson's portrayal was a thing of beauty. She not only humanized Clark, she put a face on what a prosecutor goes through--especially given a case that was flawed, based on circumstantial evidence and lacked a smoking gun, knife or a video tape of Simpson committing the crimes.

Grade A

Courtney B. Vance-Johnnie Cochran- This wasn't just acting, it was channeling. I've watched Vance for years and he could often be bland, just "there" as ADA Carver on Law and Order: Criminal Intent or any number of roles. But in a way the mark of a great actor is to just exist and not be flashy when there was little or no need. That's not true of Vance's portrayal of the great Johnnie Cochran. Vance's Cochran was pitch perfect. He didn't overdo it or being elements of present-day slang into the role. Vance captured Cochran and a certain generation of black males down to the carriage, expressions and the pride and self-assurance. Vance also didn't dumb Cochran down to a caricature and always played to Cochran's intellect. Just great.

Part 2: I'm a big fan of actors playing real people. The best always have at least one moment where a viewer's is almost "tricked" into believing it's the real person and not a portrayal. Vance's performance had about 1,000 of those moments.

Grade A

 Sterling K. Brown-Christopher Darden- To be very honest, I didn't like Christopher Darden during the trial. I read his autobiography and I liked him a bit better--certainly wasn't going to join his fan club, but didn't loath him. Brown's  portrayal was stellar. What was most striking is how he captured Darden's vocal patterns, the intermittent swagger and the bemusement and seriousness that gave from persecuting one of the world's most famous men who was on trial for double murder. Brown also captured Darden's prosecutorial zeal that didn't make him the most likeable person (especially given this trial) but Brown made it all work and had great chemistry with Paulson.

Grade B

John Travolta-Robert Shapiro-This was a strange performance. I remember Robert Shapiro, don't we all? I don' t remember him being this florid with the voice and affectations. A lot of times when I watched Travolta I wondered who he was supposed to be? In a way, Travolta's flashy portrayal of Shapiro was a good idea. In fact I looked at some Robert Shapiro footage and saw how flat and emotionless he was. Who wants to play that? Travolta's performance added some humor in a potentially depressing role.

Grade B+

David Schwimmer-Robert Kardashian- This was a great hound-dog portrayal of Robert Kardashian, the true enigma from the OJ Simpson case. Schwimmer brought the perfect amount of sorrow, responsibility and confusion to the role. Although he's often not hailed as an actor, if this part had been given to a lesser performer, this all might have been a laugh fest. Schwimmer made Kardashian's pain palpable and believable.

Grade B

Cuba Gooding Jr.-O.J. Simpson- Now this was the  most interesting casting of all. Gooding doesn't look like O.J., is a smaller and less opposing. And truthfully it's tough to imagine Gooding's O.J. being the media sensation and star athlete that Simpson was. In a way, that made it better. Gooding didn't play Simpson as scary or creepy but a bit bumbling--which is thought-provoking, if it was his call or the writers.  Either way it worked. He probably did his best work on the last episode. Seeing a newly released Simpson out of prison was very jarring. There was nothing left to play but Simpson as a broken and haunted man and to that end, Gooding was brilliant.

Grade A-

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