Like a train wreck, HBO Max’s new two-part documentary What happened, Brittany Murphy? is shocking and overwhelming to watch. The series delves into the tragic life of one of Hollywood’s most incandescent stars of the late 90s and 2000s: Brittany Murphy. While many of his contemporaries – like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears – find absolution in retrospective documentary projects, Murphy’s life cannot be improved by reassessment. She will never hear the apologies of talkative bloggers or win the long-awaited victory in court. All Brittany Murphy can be remembered and What happened, Brittany Murphy? highlights the horror of her story by focusing on her most macabre moment: her untimely death.
I watched What happened, Brittany Murphy? with bulging eyes, a relaxed jaw, and an angry heart. The project’s dismal approach to the subject ironically underscores just how treated Murphy was by Hollywood, the press, and everyone who watched her.
What happened, Brittany Murphy? try to explain how Distraught and 8 miles star Brittany Murphy has passed away suddenly at the age of 32. While the coroner explained that the actress was anemic and suffered from pneumonia, that answer never made sense to Murphy fans (or most others with fleeting knowledge of how these conditions are treatable). Soon conspiracy theories sprang up around the particularly close behavior of Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack, and his bereaved mother. Could Murphy’s death have been unfair? Was it murder? Poison?!? The effects of black mold? Murphy’s own death became even more suspicious when Monjack died of similar causes less than a year later – and revelations of his own inconvenience and lies were revealed.
So what drove Brittany Murphy to her precocious grave? Well, after flirting with a series of outrageous responses, What happened, Brittany Murphy? lands on something tragically mundane. Trapped in an emotionally toxic relationship, Murphy succumbed to her illness simply because her husband was in so much control that he was loath to see a doctor for her. I don’t feel like this is a spoiler per se, as finding out Murphy’s cause of death isn’t really the most interesting part of this documentary. What is fascinating is that it is not clear whether What happened, Brittany Murphy? may even claim superiority in his storytelling.
A brand of What happened, Brittany Murphy? illustrates how macabre celebrity culture of the 2000s was even in retrospect recent. Perez Hilton, “Ted Casablancas” and a series of celebrity gossip reporters recount their role in bashing Murphy while she was alive or covering the chilling details of her death. Audio clips and archived articles show how cruel the tabloids were to the then rising star. What happened, Brittany Murphy? argues that Monjack entered Murphy’s life at a low point and established full control. From then on, she was doomed. Corn What happened, Brittany Murphy? is so focused on people’s perceptions of Murphy and excavating Monjack’s dirty laundry, that it rocks the same sensationalist fare of celebrity gossip he seeks to criticize.
What happened, Brittany Murphy? will infuriate you for the fallen star’s name, disgusted at the inconveniences worked too easily by her late husband, and horrified at the way Hollywood has always – and still does – have talent. Ultimately, the series comes to conclusions that only make Murphy’s death all the more tragic in its uselessness. The most disturbing part of What happened, Brittany Murphy? This is how he accuses everyone, especially his own gossip-hungry viewers.
What happened, Brittany Murphy? premieres on HBO Max today.
Where to stream What happened, Brittany Murphy?