Thursday, May 4, 2017

Movie Review: "Casting JonBenet" (2017)

Director: Kitty Green
Year: 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Amateur actors from JonBenét Ramsey's hometown give their opinions on her murder while vying for a spot in a mock reenactment.

"Casting JonBenét" is a Netflix original film and Sundance nominated documentary. It is written and directed by Kitty Green, who spent over a year conducting interviews with amateur actors from Boulder, Colorado, who are auditioning to play the Ramsey family in a mock reenactment of her murder. These actors/community members offer their opinions on the 20-year-old cold case that still seemingly captivates the nation to this day.

We've seen all kinds of documentaries in the past. We seek them out for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes, we know about a subject and want to learn more about it, and other times, we crave knowledge about something new. Documentaries usually try to give true, valuable insights into a subject or person or place. They are typically more about events and facts that support whatever point of view the filmmaker has on said subject. Knowing this, it's truly a wonder if "Casting JonBenét" can actually be considered a documentary at all. It offers no new insight into the unsolved 1996 murder of a six-year-old girl. All we get from the various interviews with Boulder's local actors are the same opinions, theories, and rumors that have been floating around for the last 20 years. Just like anyone who was alive during the time, these actors have opinions that are no more informed than that of your average person. Where is Ja Rule when you need him? Maybe he has some better insight and can help us make sense of all this!

We don't know what exactly the purpose of this so-called documentary is, if we are being honest. It feels very exploitative; yet another person is trying to earn money and notoriety off of this tragedy with nothing more to come out of it other than displaying our bizarre cultural fascination with murder cases, JonBenét's in particular.

We won't be at all surprised when "American Crime Story: The Murder of JonBenét Ramsey" comes out in a year or two because, just like with O.J. Simpson in the past two or so years, this seems to be her time to have a spotlight cast upon her horrific death once again. Ryan Murphy, all we ask is that you credit us for giving you the idea. There we go again, exploiting someone's death for our own personal gain. See how easy it is? Now you can put us in the same category as director Kitty Green.

Really, the most intriguing thing about this "documentary" are the personal stories from the actors themselves. Each one seems to mention their own individual tragedies as it relates to their fake auditions. We learn about these people, who are vying for a position in the fake reenactment of the JonBenét Ramsey murder case, in the most divulging detail. We even learn about how one of the actors is employed as a sex teacher, but loves to act as well. Other than these bits and pieces, the documentary as a whole is rather banal.

A person who knows nothing about/wasn't alive during the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the subsequent media circus that ensued may be intrigued by all of the two decades-old gossip contained within the parameters of this movie. Trust us, it's a doozy of a case with a lot of odd occurrences, shady surroundings, and "WTF?!" police work. For us, "Casting JonBenét" offers no new insights, no new facts, and no new introspection other than hearing the whispers and shoddy memory fragments from some actors who lived in her hometown as they relate and relay their experiences to that of the slain child beauty pageant queen. Realistically, one would be be better served looking elsewhere for real insight and real facts without conjecture and neighborhood rumors.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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