As another story of predatory men who exploit the vulnerable, Hill and her producers do a very good job of relaying the nuance and context of Murphy’s whole life, laying the groundwork for how someone like Monjack could slip in and do their worst. But where the doc fails on an exceptional level is succumbing to the temptation of including the tasteless freak show elements that existed in fringes of her life, and have continued after her passing.
“What Happened, Brittany Murphy” might please those with little knowledge of Murphy’s life and career seeking a true-crime story version of her life. For those who want insight into her significance as a performer and how this is a true Hollywood story in a way that’s sad and preventable, you might be left wanting.
The heavy-handed hints about murder and poisoning lead nowhere; Monjack, the film seems to conclude, simply helped create the conditions that allowed Murphy to get so sick she really did die of pneumonia.
What Happened, Brittany Murphy? uses the visual language of schlock television — the gauzy reenactments, jittery editing and heightened score — to produce … two hours of schlock television, more Hard Copy or Inside Edition than an interrogation of the aesthetics and ideology that let those outlets thrive.
“What Happened” settles for the bleakest and dullest of Hollywood cliché, ending in a place that degrades Murphy’s memory while pretending to honor it. ... Director Cynthia Hill has nowhere near the control of tone or the insight about her subject to make it feel like anything other than, well, gawking at an autopsy.