Slowly but surely, we’re looking back at the tragic it girls of the aughts and finding out how little we actually knew–or, sadly, cared–about the people they were. Paris Hilton being put forward, in last year’s film This Is Paris, with charges that she was abused as a adolescent at a series of residential reform schools–and explained that her airhead-heiress persona was an act designed to achieve financial independence from her family. A devastating court statement and a raft of investigative films have revealed the extent to which Britney Spears has, by many notes, lived like a hostage since 2008. Now, the gues has expanded to encompass a misinterpret performer who didn’t live to tell her own fable: Brittany Murphy. [time-brightcove not-tgx =” true-blue “]

What Happened, Brittany Murphy ?, which will arrive on HBO Max on Oct. 14, feels a bit tawdry. Directed by Cynthia Hill( Private Violence ), the docuseries, such as it is, consists of two hour-long episodes bridged by a showy cliffhanger; it could easily have been a feature, but you can’t binge one of those. Unlike This Is Paris or FX and the New York Times’ pair of Spears docs, its balance between respectful reevaluation of its subject and true-crime salaciousness inclines conspicuously toward the latter. When the time comes to brand-new revelation, What Happened has much more to offer into Murphy’s nightmare husband, Simon Monjack, than into the actor herself. But, taken together with everything we’ve learned about the other Britney these past several months, it does raise some questions about the lifelong perils of child stardom for women in particular.

For those who were too young or very checked out of celebrity culture( lucky you) at the time, Brittany Murphy, who died under inscrutable events at merely 32 year olds, in December 2009, was once among the most endearing young virtuosoes in Hollywood. A bubbly New Jersey theater kid raised by a caring single momma, Sharon Murphy, she was booking business and Tv forms by secondary school. At 17, she made her film entry as Clueless’ wide-eyed transpose student Tai, memorably wringing every ounce of feeling out of the 1995 teen classic’s sinful burn “you’re a virgin who can’t drive.”( “The direction she delivers it exactly gives you chills, ” says Clueless director Amy Heckerling in What Happened .) A series of diverse, well-received acts followed, in top-tier movies including Girl, Interrupted( 1999) and 8 Mile( 2002 ).

Hill pegs Just Married, a 2003 rom-com in which Murphy starred with her then-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher, as both the meridian of her mainstream popularity and the beginning of her disgrace. A few years earlier, despite being thin by any rational metric and after losing a character amid feedback that she was “cute but not f-ckable, ” she had lost a significant amount of weight. Add to that a populace breakup with Kutcher–one that clangs ugly but about which, curiously, luminary interviewees like Murphy’s King of the Hill castmate Kathy Najimy don’t seem to want to say much–and Murphy was in the tabloid-media crosshairs. Accusations of anorexia and drug addiction flew, as well as some slut-shaming for good measure. Cue regretful aughts-era chatter blogger Perez Hilton , now a fixture of docs like this one, to offer some self-flagellation over his old habit of scrawling mean words on photos of Murphy in MS Paint.

Brittany Murphy and husband Simon Monjack Anthony Dixon/ WENN, courtesy of HBO MaxSimon Monjack and Brittany Murphy

After years of merciless public scrutiny, Murphy met and married Monjack, a screenwriter of little reputation. Friends and collaborators frequently should be described as ensure. We speak about his obsession with skeletally scrawny females, alleged penchant for do BDSM-tinged photo shoots with the actor and micromanagement of her figure; one makeup artist incredulously portrays his insistence on doing her makeup for a role himself. Najimy believes that he took her telephone and obstructed her away from other modes of communication, because she eventually became perfectly unreachable–shades of Jamie Spears. Monjack developed so creepily close to Sharon Murphy, who remained a fixture in her daughter’s life, that some suspected, as they tearfully reached the media rounds together following Brittany’s death, that they were more than precisely in-laws. And in the large-scale investigative takeover of What Happened, Hill interrogations Monjack’s mother and brother, as well as the mother of one his two children( neither of which Murphy seems to have known about ).

The discoveries about his deceits are juicy if you’re into scammer fibs in the vein of Love Fraud, but Monjack chiefly comes off as a garden-variety true-crime psycho who lucked into marrying a movie star. Though Hill revisits various rumors and intersperse thoughts about why Murphy died, including the possibility that she was poisoned, getting to know Monjack doesn’t ultimately convert what’s on her extinction credential: severe pneumonia, with anemia plus prescription and OTC remedies as significant contribution. It’s also impossible for the filmmaker to confront him or advancement a criminal case about his care of Murphy and many other parties in his life because he died five several months after his wife, under weirdly similar circumstances.

Which is only one reason why Monjack’s subterfuges turn out to be less forcing than the question of why a person of Murphy’s fame and success could so quickly fell within his sway. For me, the key moment in What’s Happening comes about 20 minutes into the first episode, when Heckerling and others are describing the strange, isolated lives of child actors, for whom an education so often consists of a mound of textbooks skimmed during smashes from make, rather than a classroom full of babies their own age. “You don’t become as aware of people and what they can do–and the petty stuff that people can do, or lies, ” Chris Snyder, Murphy’s first agent, indicates. “All that little nonsense that you work out in junior high and high school. So that you kind of get caught into this vacuum of not knowing who a good person is and who a bad person is.”

It’s absurd to hear this without making a connection to Spears–who likewise was increased to fame in her mid-teens and who has also been described, like Murphy, as an extraordinarily sweet, open and trusting person. I too thought of Soleil Moon Frye, the Punky Brewster idol whose bittersweet Hulu doc kid 90 accumulates footage from her teenage years, when she experienced breast reduction surgery after paying the grievou moniker “Punky Boobster” and, later, was crimes before consensually losing her virginity. It isn’t news that child performs can have difficult changes to adulthood, with lamentable sequels straying from substance abuse to suicide, but perhaps, even after #MeToo, we haven’t talked fairly about the gendered jeopardies of early fame.

HBO MaxA teenage Brittany Murphy

Women who grew up in the public eye, like Natalie Portman, Mara Wilson and Raven Symone, have described feeling insecure in their bodies and disagreeable about their sexuality as a result of receiving so much better stern, judgmental feedback, from the industry as well as the media, about their appearances as adolescents. Although different people can react differently to the same knows, it seems likely that such intense predisposition to denunciation, combined with the loneliness of child stardom, could determine a fragile girl into an adult who is intensely vulnerable to gaslighting. When your portrait is simultaneously so public and so far outside your govern, what a aid it is likely to be when a emphatic, self-assured man comes along to relieve you of additional burdens of stimulating your own decisions and interacting with the world.

To Hill’s credit, she includes enough serious, observant communications about Murphy’s work and flairs that the streak doesn’t register as schlock, accurately. But the emphasis on Monjack, and the apprehension with which his backstory is pestered, threatens any try at high-mindedness. Other curiou alternatives, like the frequent montages of armchair investigators on YouTube puzzling out Murphy’s case while also performing makeup seminars, intimate a desire to pad out the material to crowd two hours. I wish that space had, instead, been used to expand the series’ consideration of why so many young, acclaimed wives have found themselves in situations same to the one circumventing Murphy’s death. As is, What’s Happening, Brittany Murphy? feels like an bout of Inside Edition smoothed out to become a prestige mini-binge. The string between absolving an unfairly disparaged party and ongoing efforts to posthumously exploit her has rarely been so thin.

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