How's Jury Selection Going In American Crime Story? Not Great, (For) Bob!
As The People v. OJ Simpson seats its jury, Sarah D. Bunting judges the acting.
It's tempting to conclude that "100% Not Guilty" is a super-sized episode in order to reflect how long the jury-selection process dragged on in The People v. OJ Simpson. At one point a chyron noted flatly that we'd reached "Day 70" of that process; my response, dear reader, was "That's it?" It felt longer at the time. As much heavy-handed foreshadowing and as many judiciously phrased abstraction-offs as we get in American Crime Story's fourth ep, we got three times that every day in the late summer of '95.
And we didn't get nearly as much cringe comedy compliments of Robert Shapiro as portrayed by John Travolta, a one-man Curb Your Enthusiasm scene seething and snarling under a carapace of cheekbone contour, or the simply gorgeous "...this fucking guy" reaction shots of the rest of the corps, or Connie Britton's flawless dissipated butterfly routine as Faye Resnick. ACS is showcasing a handful of amazing performances.
And a couple of confusing ones! And one that's pretty bad so far. Let's rank the acting of "100% Not Guilty" from best to worst.
Everyone in this elevator...
...but especially Carl Douglas...
...and Johnnie Cochran's coolly speculative "it is ON" face after Shapiro disembarks
Cochran bolsters OJ in jail
This is a typically subtle piece of business from Courtney B. Vance in the Cochran role; you can see Cochran not just working up to his point, but working himself up to believing it, because he knows how important it is that it succeed in reaching OJ Simpson in the only language a narcissist will understand, a song of himself.
Vance's occupation of the "bullshit, but of immaculate construction" space is well done. The frustration with Cochran in real life was exactly that.
I never believed the rumors that Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden had A Thing
But I guess Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown do? I don't know how I feel about the acting choices here.
Huh. Must be morning sickness because that bam-chicka face on Brown just got me pregnant. I MEAN. That screenshot is from a scene where Clark and Darden are drinking tequila out of dainty coffee cups and I genuinely thought they were going to get it on on top of a huge pile of files. And I'm a little bummed out that it didn't happen.
"Lee. You're pro bono."
Uh, I'll pay that girl-bye mug $400 an hour. That shit's hilarious.
Faye Resnick "trying to manage it"
Connie Britton is so good as Resnick, wandering around a publisher's office, compulsively snacking, telling them more about her own directionless hedonism than about Nicole Brown.
Nobody can ever resist shoehorning that "Brentwood hello" reference in, though I get the feeling it wasn't ever really a thing, and only survived via childish attempts to shock or feel superior through mentioning it. Britton puts it over, though, using that affected softcore voice to underline Resnick's need for attention.
What about Bob?
It would not surprise me to learn that John Travolta was asked to approximate one of those electric backyard bug-zappers with his delivery, because he's giving me that sort of hum/pop emotionally as Shapiro in "100% Not Guilty," and it's just as satisfying as that lights-dimming buzz when a big moth flies into the works. He's relatably frustrated, but then he's unforgivably tone-deaf, dropping a "these people" as Cochran and Carl Douglas exchange "ohhhh boy" looks, blaring that he's disgusted that anyone would accuse the defense team of playing the race card while Cochran tries to catch Ito's eye all "but we are doing that, did he not get the memo?"
The lack of vanity here is remarkable (and may have a look-at-me element to it, leaning into the idea that playing ugly gets the attention of awards bodies), and then at the same time, Travolta has taken on every aspect of Shapiro from the walnut tan to the triangular brows to the hunchy language of his arms and hands...but didn't or wouldn't wear brown contacts. The way ACS is shot really pops greens and blues amid the relentless browns and greiges of jail and court, so always in the performance is, still, the irreducibly Travolta thing. And somehow that works for me, I think because so many things and people about the case became and remained famous, their own shorthand. Who better to try to translate that quality of fame than Travolta.
"Lesbian sex, 197!"
Perfectly underplayed by Travolta.
"THAT'S not true, THAT's not true! ...Okay, that's true."
I continue to admire David Schwimmer's rendition of Robert Kardashian as constantly on the verge of angry tears.
And now, to introduce today's turd in the jurisprudential punchbowl, the Honorable Lance A. Ito
Ito made this exact FFS face thousands of times during the trial.
Kenneth Choi nails it every time.
"Well, that's wonderful anecdotal information, but..."
Jury consultant Don Vinson is obliged to correct Marcia Clark on just about every conception she has of how she's perceived by prospective jurors, the "bond" she has with African-American women, and so on.
Honorable mention to the way Albert Malafronte grits out that Clark might consider "smiling a bit more," knowing she's going to set him on fire with her mind, but his exhaustedly please-shut-up-please delivery of "Well, that's wonderful anecdotal information" is everything.
Simpson receives Cochran's praise
Cuba Gooding is less successful in the scene than Vance is, and his weepy, insecure Simpson is generally less effective for me than his entitled, narcissistic Simpson.
I would bet this is down to direction, versus Gooding choosing to cheat a little and let Simpson come off more pathetic than monstrous, but Gooding wears Simpson's shoes better (as it were) when he's more confident.
Fred said a mouthful
I liked the casting in theory, but Joseph Siravo has thrived on a certain look, versus notable thespian skills, and he is well overmatched here, starting with a wig so clearly demarcated from actual hair that it practically sports a manned checkpoint:
Still, it's a reasonably close resemblance, but Siravo can't convert, and consistently stumbles into jowl-jiggling shrillness. The man's anger and resentment that his son was eclipsed by Simpson's fame on top of being murdered was righteous, but controlled; Siravo can't even control his accent. Goldman is a Chicago guy, I think, but this delivery is zinging from County Kildare to Newport News.
This too could be the fault of direction, as the actor playing Kim appears to have been told to tremble and little else. Regardless: needs improvement.