Tuesday, March 8, 2016

REVIEW: 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' - Marcia Struggles as the World Criticizes Her Appearance in 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia'

FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story - Episode 1.06 "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia"

As Marcia Clark juggles her home and work obligations, she starts to feel the public scrutiny of her appearance.

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" is a terrific spotlight episode for Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark. Throughout the first five episodes, she has done excellent work. But she took things up a notch in this hour as Marcia faced the pressures of a world that many woman have to face but through the spotlight of this giant case. It's a devastating episode that chips away at Marcia's tough exterior until she's openly weeping by stress and pressure of this case. She does have a very close ally in Chris Darden. But this is an experience that is very personal to her. She is the one being judged because she's juggling work and her family. She's the one being criticized about her appearance and demeanor in this case. It's all for her to handle. It's so violently different than anything she has ever experienced before. She has to deal with the circus this trial has become and just how ill-prepared she has been for this public spotlight.

Marcia just wants to be a good prosecutor. The facts of this case are on her side. She's doing an excellent job in laying out the prosecution's side of the story. She is so determined to make the facts speak for themselves. There is all of this outside pressure and moral complications that are trying to cloud the minds of the jurors. The defense has been doing an equally good job in calling into question everything that Marcia is trying to present in this case. She's a great attorney. She is able to handle all the legal tricks thrown at her. But she is not a performer. She's a woman doing her best to convict O.J. of this crime that she is certain he committed. She is passionate about getting justice for Nicole and Ronald. That's what's motivating her. But that increasingly seems to be irrelevant in the opinion of this case. It's not a trial about the facts. It's a trial of flashy substance.

No one seems to be noticing the actual details about this murder. The cameras are rolling and documenting everything that is taking place in this courtroom. Everything that the lawyers and Judge Ito say is being seen by the entire country and being printed in every newspaper and magazine. It's a case that continues to grip America. Everyone has their own opinion about whether or not O.J. did it. The country listens in as witnesses for the prosecution deliver their testimony and the defense tries to discredit their crimes. It's a gripping experience. But after the fact, the world is more focused on what Marcia looks like than the skill set she is bringing to this case. After a hard day of work, she doesn't return home to news shows having a conversation about the legality of what happened in the proceedings of the day. No, she is instead watching a program that wants to talk at length about her personal styling choices. This is a look that she loves. It's what she wears to work everyday. She's not putting on a performance for the cameras. This is the real her. And that person is being critiqued harshly.

It's a struggle that many woman across this country can relate to - even 20 years after the case has ended. The outside world doesn't care about what these words will do to Marcia. It's simply a sexist society that believes Marcia is a bitch simply because she's forceful in the courtroom and her look is so polarizing. She gets a major victory when she calls out Johnnie for his sexist remarks in open court. But even that is so short lived. She is praised for it for a moment. And then, something else appears that makes everyone look at her with judgment about her appearance and not the merits of this case. She tried to give in to this society. She is perfectly aware of what the entire country is saying about her. It gets inside her head. She tries to make a change in order to bring the focus back to the case. It's a very genuine action. But such a change only brings more attention to her. In hindsight, it was a very poor idea to give into the world and try to change her style. She goes to a hairstylist who only makes things worse. It's something that everyone notices. It also showcases just how isolated she is through this whole process.

Marcia wants to be the good prosecutor that convicts O.J. Simpson for a double homicide. But instead, she's the bitch who is trying to imprison the most beloved celebrity in the country. Nothing she does makes a lot of difference. She is aware that Ito is obsessed with the attention this trial is getting because of the celebrity at the center of it. Ito and Gil are aware of the criticism Marcia is under as well - especially after she tells the court she can't stay late because she needs to be with her kids. And yet, that doesn't keep them from adding fuel to the fire. Gil thinks it's a good idea for Marcia to meet with some style consultants. And then, Ito makes a joke in court after seeing Marcia sporting her new hair style. It's humiliating and hurtful. Ito and Gil want to help Marcia during this hard time by showing her sympathy and compassion. But the only person who is truly there for her is Chris. He's the one who provides comfort for her. He's the one who constantly lifts her up when the rest of the world is trying to drag her down.

All of this complicates the court proceedings. Marcia still just wants to do her job. She wants to object to every legal trick the dream team is pulling out of their arsenal to destroy her case. She is expertly able to handle a curveball when Johnnie presents a witness who can affect her timeline and who also happens to conveniently be leaving the country. She's not a good witness at all. Marcia is able to showcase just how extraneous and unnecessary this entire special hearing is with just a few questions. She chose to prepare for such interrogation instead of going to be with her family. She is really committed to this case despite the effect it's having on her children and her messy divorce.

And yet, Marcia still puts Detective Fuhrmann on the stand in order to provide the best description of the events that started this entire case. She ignored some serious concerns from Chris. This episode also does an adequate job in showing that Fuhrmann really was the lead investigator and was so crucial to the prosecution's case. Marcia walks the jury through the night of Nicole and Ronald's murders. It's not flashy at all. She shows off the pictures but she just wants to lay out the facts and how straight-forward this case should be. Marcia doesn't know how to be a flashy performer in the courtroom. That's not what she wants to do in this job. But it's exactly what the defense is doing. Lee rises to cross-examine Fuhrmann and it's a dramatic experience. This line of questioning is so crucial to the destruction of this case. It's shown in a very intense way too. When Marcia was questioning Fuhrmann on the record, the camera moved in a non-distracting way. It had purpose but it showed off the simplicity of the words and allowed Marcia to tell her story to the jury. When it was Lee's turn though, the camera direction was filled with harsh movements in order to build the intensity through the scene. Lee went into this cross with a ton of confidence. He knows just how dangerous Fuhrmann's past has been. He asks him if he has ever called someone a nigger. It's a very pointed question that's being asked in this very over-the-top way. But it's still a strategy that works. Lee provokes an emotional response from Fuhrmann. It's a strategy that completely floors Marcia. She is losing control of this case and it is so debilitating. But as she loses control, it only allows Paulson to shine even more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" was written by D.V. DeVincentis and directed by Ryan Murphy.
  • The press is also so quick to scandalize everything about Marcia. They have no personal boundaries whatsoever. A magazine even publishes a nude picture of her on vacation. That stands in stark contrast to Johnnie. He has his own personal history with domestic abuse. Something that's thematically connected to this case. And yet, no one seems to be talking about it. And when they do, they approach him for comment first before publishing anything. It's a story that he is quickly able to deal with through one easy phone call too. But Marcia isn't given the same courtesy.
  • Marcia and Chris have grown really close through this case. That's good because she needs someone who can be very supportive of her during this trying time. But it's still a little awkward for them as they realize just how close they've gotten.
  • It's also significant that every time Marcia enters the courtroom she is the last person to arrive and all eyes are on her. Every time that happens, it's meaningful. Sometimes she enters with confidence while other times the pressure of the entire world watching her is too much.
  • The cutaways to network executives choosing to preempt their daytime programming in order to show the trial were nice and simple moments. It was also amusing when one asked if they can even say nigger on the air.
  • O.J. has also grown concerned that his defense team isn't confident with all of their strategies. He has put a lot of trust in them. But he's distraught after Marcia destroys their witness on the stand. He's so furious that he wants to be informed about all of their strategies moving forward.