Documentaries serve a salient purpose in the media industry. They bring an issue or story to light and portray it in a way that makes an audience learn about something they were unaware of prior. This purpose makes documentaries an influential source in disclosing undiscussed information, but it also creates a mound of pressure. Choosing a story that only a documentary could produce effectively is difficult.
HBO Max’s two-part documentary “What Happened, Brittany Murphy?” premiered on Oct. 14 and was nothing short of underwhelming. The documentary elucidated how the bright and beloved actress Brittany Murphy went from a life of big movie roles and international fame to a devastating life of judgement and control that ultimately led her death to be a mystery. The two-parts follow Murphy’s life from when she was a teenager in New Jersey to the few weeks leading up to her death. It features commentary from various journalists, media personalities and her closest friends. Every interview and clip of footage of Murphy did give valuable insight into who Murphy was and how she got to where she was on the night of her death. But, with that being said, this documentary was not necessary.
When a documentary has the words ‘What Happened” in the title, one can only expect an answer to that question. Except, this documentary never answers the one and only question that viewers and fans have been seeking. For those who are not familiar with the actresses’ perplexing death, Murphy passed away at the age of 32 of pneumonia. When news of her death hit headlines, many people were confused on how a young and healthy woman could have suddenly collapsed and died of pneumonia. Her husband had always been an enigma, and with many people reporting that he seemed controlling and obsessive, conspiracy theories began to form. with her husband, Simon Monjack, was the lead suspect in her death. However, when Monjack passed away of the same causes less than a year later, many questions were left unanswered: How Murphy truly died and if there were ulterior motives from her husband or anyone else are both still undetermined. It would seem that this ambivalence is the reason why a documentary would be made. People want to uncover the truth of what really happened.
Instead, this documentary promotes a two-hour exploration of Murphy’s life and then her death. There isn’t any closure or a sense of justice being served. It also begs the question of “why now?” Murphy’s death occurred over ten years ago. If the intention of this documentary was to be a reflection and celebration of her success, it would be understandable if it was released shortly after her passing. But ten years later? If there isn’t any vital unjust information that needs to be uncovered about the actress’ death, the commiseration is no longer of value. Murphy was a renowned actress and revered person, who played roles in iconic and successful films like “Clueless”, “8 Mile”, and “Uptown Girls.” Not only was she a talented actress, but her contagious smile and eternal kindness made her a refreshing star in a very cruel Hollywood. If society wants to look back on Murphy’s life, it should be an ode to her acting talent and her unconditional kindness, not a reexamination of conspiracy theories.
“What Happened, Brittany Murphy?” is now streaming on HBO Max.
By Cyna Mirzai