Trying to approach a topic as depraved and wrapped up in celebrity as Jeffrey Epstein, there's obviously an awareness that it has to be handled delicately.
If you delve into the ties he had to the likes of Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, or other celebrities like Chris Rock, Kevin Spacey, or Prince Andrew, does that then detract from the human cost of his actions? Do you then focus solely on his crimes, ignoring the reality of his wealth and its ability to shield him from consequences for so many years?
If you wanted to know all of this, and all of his vile crimes, you can just read a book or examine his Wikipedia page. 'Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich' offers up a perfunctory, ho-hum walkthrough of his life and crimes, what he did, how he got away with it, and how he made his money.
There's a certain flatness to it all, not that something like this should be considered entertaining, but there has to be a structure and a narrative to it that can appeal to wider audiences. After all, documentaries are true stories simply forged and wrought into more familiar shapes for audiences. What 'Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich' tries and fails to do is catalogue his brutal crimes by testimony from the survivors themselves.
Looking at something like 'Leaving Neverland' or 'Surviving R. Kelly', similar documentaries that focus on abusers and their survivors, there is a real sense of the directors trying to build and layer a story that builds to a conclusion that makes sense and is, if not satisfying, at least offers up a sense of finality to it. While the murky circumstances of his death are touched upon, there's nothing here that hasn't been made public or hasn't been picked clean by news reports and the like.
More to the point, there is no sense of vindication in it. The interviews are scrupulous, even-handed, and even though an author like James Patterson is listed in the credits and crops up as a talking head, there's not one whiff of lurid tabloid glee in any of it.
Each of the many, many women detail their experiences in graphic detail, discuss how they were brought into his web, how they debased themselves, and what happened afterwards. The pattern is familiar, not just for Epstein, but for almost all victims of sexual abuse and trafficking. In that way, it's hard to critique any of what they're saying because it's honest and their testimony needs to be heard.
Yet, the fact is that Epstein was a man of mystery. There's barely any real footage of him, save for that infamous couple of minutes of him at Trump's chintzy shithole of a hotel in Florida commenting on NFL cheerleaders. We have no sense who he is, apart from his victims, and each and every episode's denouement points out that Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's partner, denies the accusations levelled against her.
Ultimately, 'Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich' makes no grand claims to unveiling any kind of truth, but instead settles itself with a grim catalogue of a depraved predator who escaped justice.