Last year, I was one of the few people willing to defend The Haunting of Sharon Tate, which I felt was an effective film despite its rather icky premise. I thought that the film managed to maintain a compelling atmosphere of dread and I also thought that, though somewhat miscast, Hilary Duff gave a good performance in the lead role. Finally, I felt that, despite the exploitative nature of the film, the film was firmly on the side of Sharon Tate and the other victims of the Manson Family. Though the title may have been offensive, the film itself was better than it had any right to be.
I really can’t say the same for The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, which is from the same production team as The Haunting of Sharon Tate and which imagines the final days in the life of another famous homicide victim. Mena Suvari stars as Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of football player OJ Simpson (played, in a hyperactive manner, by Gene Freeman). The film follows Nicole as she deals not only with her abusive ex-husband but also with shady friends like Faye Resnick (Taryn Manning) and slightly less-disreputable friends like Kris Jenner (Agnes Bruckner).
In the film, Nicole also has a short-lived affair with a handsome but unstable drifter named Glen Rogers (Nick Stahl). In real life, Glen Rogers is currently incarcerated in Florida, where he awaits execution for a series of murders. Rogers has confessed to killing people all across the country, though there’s some doubt as to whether or not Rogers was being honest when he did so. (Rogers later recanted the confession.) Rogers’s brother has claimed that Glen confessed to murdering Nicole Simpson and Adam Goldman, saying that he was actually hired to do so by OJ Simpson. (Technically, Glen Rogers said that Simpson hired him to steal some jewelry but also gave him permission to kill Nicole if he felt that it was necessary.) The film presents Rogers’s story as being fact, complete with a scene of OJ meeting with Glen shortly before the murders occur.
Other than making the case that Glen Rogers murdered Nicole and Ron, the majority of the film is just Mena Suvari walking around Los Angeles and talking to her friends about how she has a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Whereas The Haunting of Sharon Tate was willing to challenge the audience’s expectations by, at least briefly, changing history and presenting an alternate version of what could have happened that day in 1969, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is pretty much a grim march towards death, with each scene bringing the audience closer and close to the night of the actual murderers. If the film actually presented Nicole as being a fully-realized character as opposed to just a doomed victim, the story’s fatalistic atmosphere would work on an existential level but since the film doesn’t seem to care about who Nicole was before she died, it all just feels very sleazy.
Towards the end of the film, there’s an odd scene where an unseen force suddenly starts to violently throw Nicole across her bedroom, sending her against the walls and, at one point, pinning her to the ceiling. It’s a weird scene because it comes out of nowhere and it’s never explained whether it really happened or if Nicole was imagining being attacked. It doesn’t belong in this film and yet, it’s also the only moment when this film feels in any way unpredictable. Is the film trying to suggest that death, as a paranormal entity, was stalking her even before the night of her murder or was the scene just tossed in to liven up what is otherwise a rather slowly paced movie? Who knows? Again, if the film had really explored the issue of whether or not fate is predetermined and inevitable, it would have made for a far more interesting story than the rush job that this film appears to have been.
Mena Suvari and Nick Stahl are two actors who probably deserve better than this. Stahl is especially effective as the creepy but handsome Glen Rogers. Visually, the film is full of Hollywood glamour and ominous shadows. It’s not a bad-looking film, at all. Technically, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is well-made but, at the same time, it’s all just so astoundingly pointless. The memory of Nicole Simpson deserved better.