Wednesday, July 5, 2017
AMANDA KNOX on Netflix: Guilty of being weird
I didn't follow the Amanda Knox case. From what I gleaned from the Yahoo news pages, she was some American brat who went to Perugia, Italy and hosted a drug-fueled orgy that resulted in the murder of her roommate, a young British woman named Meredith Kercher. It was all horrendous enough, but when you've rotted your brain with as much true crime junk as I have, not to mention watching 100 or so movies per week, plus trying to fulfill my dream of becoming a world class gaucho, it'll take more than Amanda Knox to get my attention. In other parts of the world, however, she was big news, and I mean O.J. Simpson big. She was "Foxy Knoxy," the seductress with a taste for kinky mayhem. After viewing Amanda Knox, a reasonably good documentary produced for Netflix, I'm hardly an expert on the story. Still, I think I know why the citizens of Perugia hated this perky 20-year-old. It's not her fault, but to them she probably looked like a typical privileged American tourist who thinks her shit doesn't stink. Sometimes it's that simple.
In a moment that is supposed to be filed with portent, Knox tells us early on, "Either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing, or I am you." More likely, she was every Italian mother's nightmare, luring one of their unsuspecting but horny sons into the scandal of the decade, which is probably why her accusers wanted to lynch her from the opening bell. (Later she says, "I think people love monsters...fear makes people crazy.") The filmmakers follow the Errol Morris template like obedient doggies, with the blaring headlines creating the fun, followed by various talking heads, dressed formally, seated in front of a charcoal grey backdrop, giving their thoughts. I especially liked an Italian lawyer who lambasted the American media for suggesting the Italian courts weren't up to handling the case. He assured us that Italy was practicing law when Americans were "still drawing buffaloes on cave walls."
To this documentary's credit, Knox isn't sugarcoated. She may not have been the sex crazed she-devil of the tabloids, but she was a strange duck. When her roommate was discovered with her throat cut, Knox was spotted cuddling with her boyfriend, which didn't endear her to those watching on Italian TV. She drew more suspicion by constantly changing her story and blaming other people. When asked about it now, Knox says she was merely a scared kid and that the Italian cops intimidated her. The merciless British tabloids, out to milk the death of Kercher, couldn't get enough of this odd American girl. It was, says Brit reporter Nick Pisa, "A fantastic buzz" to get your Amanda story on the front page, while pipe smoking investigators who looked like they'd just stumbled out of a Jules Maigret novel describe Knox as an "anarchist." She and her boyfriend were convicted, and then acquitted, more than once. Though DNA evidence linked Kercher's murder to a local creep with a history of burglaries, some still believe Knox was involved.
Knox now lives in Seattle, her days of villainy behind her. She notes with some frustration that people still recognize her when she goes to the supermarket, but appearing in this documentary guarantees at least another few years of recognition - maybe she thinks Netflix subscribers are too busy watching Family Guy reruns. The filmmakers work hard to make Knox look all alone in the world. We see a lot of staged footage designed to make her appear isolated - there she is chopping an onion, walking alone in the street, riding alone on a ferry boat - but nothing to make her seem, well, likable. I think part of the problem in Perugia was that she honestly didn't know how to react to the case. She'd known Kercher for only a few weeks, so there was no real bond there. That doesn't mean she's guilty of anything. I think she was an emotionally stunted young woman thrown into a big mess. Like the husband in Gone Girl, who felt nothing when he was accused of killing his wife and only made himself look bad by trying to show false emotions, Knox seemed unsure of how to act. She'd cry because she thought she was supposed to cry. Even now, in Amanda Knox, her tears seem like a performance. She's like a country club wife with the eyes of a Manson girl.