Like millions of other Americans I've recently discovered all the beautiful things HBO has to offer thanks to 'HBO Now' the new streaming service which offers everything HBO has put on film from now and back when they were still using that really cool open where you flew through town.
The Jinx is a miniseries about a man named Robert Durst. Eldest son of Seymour Durst, one of the biggest names in New York real estate. Back in 1982 Robert's wife Kathie disappeared, never to be heard from again. This series covers Mr. Durst's childhood, Mrs. Durst's disappearance, and the rest of this guys very interesting life.
I kind of started watching it on a whim, which is very unusual for me. Usually I take my time to really probe a subject or film before committing my precious time to it. But I had just gotten my shiny new HBO Now subscription and wanted to dive right in. The first thing that really told me this was going to be something special, was the open.
The way its cut is flawless, its stylized, smooth, and oh-so-satisfying. The use of "Fresh Blood" by the Eels is nothing short of perfect. It gets the endorphin's pumping and tells an entire narrative on its own. I was truly inspired after seeing it.
As the series goes on we're somewhat introduced to the director and crew as a cast of characters. I loved seeing things from their perspective. One thing that has always irked me about documentaries is you never really get the creator's point of view. Lots of times I'll find myself watching a series or 'day in the life' type film and then start scouring the internet searching for interviews or Q and A's with the director. I really want to know why someone was passionate enough about an idea that they needed to see it come to this kind of fruition, and sadly this often seems left out. In 'The Jinx' the director becomes a character as he searches for information and tells his producers he's nervous about conducting an interview, it made me feel like I was there with him (as cliche as that sounds) and that we were working together to solve this mystery.
Its not surprising at all to me then to know that the events of this show are still on going. The night before the premiere of the final episode some very big news went down surrounding the shows main person of interest. It feels like a series that actually is accomplishing something other than simply entertainment.
Reenactments have always felt stale and uninspired to me. I love those true crime dramas as much as anyone but whenever a reenactment is done I always groan at the stiffness and unoriginal way details are displayed. I understand completely the challenges though, trying to get something to look good while also trying your hardest to make sure the details are what they need to be must be very challenging. 'The Jinx' has some of the best reenactments I've ever seen, they succeed immensely at doing the two things they are there to do: They give us the details we need, and they do it while giving us an emotional response.
The actual interviews themselves are handled perfectly I feel as well. The director Andrew Jarecki seems to know that what's not being said can be just as, and sometimes more important than what is being said. Robert will make a statement and then we linger on him sometimes for a long time before we cut away, giving the audience a chance to decide if what we're being told is sincere or not. The negative space becomes just as important as the positive.
Andrew Jarecki directed a film based on the same premise 'All Good Things' starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst which came out in 2010, a few years before the HBO series. I watched the film after seeing 'The Jinx' and I didn't think the film was very good unfortunately. There was way too much going on to follow which made it very difficult to put any kind of feelings behind any characters. I went in to it knowing the whole story and I still felt lost. Ryan Gosling did a fine job portraying a dark and disturbed Robert Durst (changed to David Marks for the film) and this was definitely the strongest I've seen Kirsten Dunst which was refreshing to see and made this film worth the watch. But other than those two redeeming factors it wasn't much on its own. But the beauty behind the scenes is, Mr. Durst decided to do the interviews for HBO after he had seen the film! I wonder if this was what Mr. Jarecki had planned all along? It makes 'The Jinx' all that more satisfying.
Most documentaries I've seen go out on a positive note, or a darker one if its about motivating people to do or care about something. The Jinx ends with an explosive climax leaving me beyond satisfied and ready to hop online and start my own research. I highly suggest taking a look at this amazing series.