Weekend Binge

The true-life opera of the fall of a gay icon, and the madness of his killer

THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY Ricky Martin as Antonio D’Amico, Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace. CR: Jeff Daly/FX

Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every Friday, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.

The Operatic: American Crime Story-The Assassination of Gianni Versace

From the first frames of American Crime Story: Versace–the second series of true-crime drama produced by Ryan Murphy–we know it will end in tragedy. The story of the assassination of designer Gianni Versace continues to spark headlines more than 20 years after his murder at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Yet, for the entire duration of the 10-episode season, we can’t look away.

We chalk that up to the writing, courtesy of the brilliant mind of Tom Rob Smith (London Spy), Smith approaches the story like an opera: though we know it will end in tragedy, he manages to build suspense by reliving the sordid events that culminated in murder. For Darren Criss’ Cunanan, that means becoming so obsessed with success and wealth, he never learned how to define either quality for himself. For Edgar Ramirez’s Versace, that involves dealing with sycophantic sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz) and assuring his longtime partner Antonio (Ricky Martin) that he doesn’t need other mean to be happy. Smith also indicts America’s attitude toward queer people at the time: heaping systemic shame on gay men, and barring same-sex couples from marrying. That Donatella Versace, a woman of dubious talent who always treated her brother with contempt, ended up with Gianni’s fortune while Antonio ended up with nothing is certainly a moral crime, if not a legal one.

Criss plays Cunanan with a flighty narcissism and quiet self-loathing; it’s little wonder he took home an Emmy for his work. Working from Smith’s script, Criss creates a man we come to pity, but never one we come to love. The series also features excellent work by Ramirez, Martin and especially Judith Light. Light appears in only one episode as the wife of a closeted millionaire; the quiet dignity and heartache she imbues in her character devastates. Horrifying, infuriating and always captivating, The Assassination of Gianni Versace will haunt viewers with its real-life opera, as damn well it should

Streams on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes & VUDU.