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The Boulder, Colorado crime scene: a murdered 6-year-old girl from an affluent family on Christmas Day, her body found in the basement of her parents' maze-like house some eight hours after they reported her missing. This begins a chain of events that leads to lies, deception, bruised egos, terminated careers, fallen reputations, lawsuits, and so much ill will and bad blood that Boulder is probably still reeling from the after-shocks of this case. Excellent docudrama, a four-hour movie for television chronicling the baffling murder investigation beginning in 1996, makes its case right from the start: that it is irrelevant how much time has transpired since the actual crime occurred (irrelevant, also, how many years have passed since this movie originally aired in 2000). A compulsively watchable and gripping tapestry of lives, it doesn't matter how resigned the viewer may be to the fact this headline-making yarn is pretty much unsolvable--it is done with enormous skill and a keen-eyed sensibility. Director Lawrence Schiller and writer Tom Torpor, who adapted Schiller's book, have an awful lot of material to sift through, and dozens of complicated characters to introduce us to, yet they do so with clarity and aplomb. It would be next to impossible to eliminate scenes or characters without leaving unanswered questions behind, so the running time is justified; still, I did grow tired of a sub-plot involving a "bottom feeder" reporter from a tabloid journal, and Kris Kristofferson's homicide detective Lou Smit never quite comes to life (Smit stood steadfastly behind the child's accused parents, and had a nifty summation of events which he proclaimed in a private session, yet much of the time we don't know where Smit stands with some of the evidence gathered--or why he seemed to believed the parents' story from the get-go). The film is frustrating and yet uncanny, well-informed and yet cloudy. The case has not been solved--and the movie isn't satisfying on an emotional level as a result--yet the release we want to get from it is transposed into mind-boggling food for thought. The large cast is superb, particularly Ken Howard as District Attorney Alex Hunter (who waged a war of words and actions with the Colorado Police Dept.) and Marg Helgenberger as the child's erratic mother. The wealthy parents, who stonewalled the police for four months and seemed to lead everyone in charge around by the hand, are two of the most fascinating murder witnesses in criminal history, and this is most likely the best examination of them we'll ever get on film.
At the beginning of this, with the obtrusive music and interminable opening,
I groaned "oh no, this is gonna suck." Yet it quickly righted itself and
established a good pace, the music backed off, and the director found a good
way to reach a dramatic ending despite the case never being solved. Yes, we
get an avalanche of characters at the beginning, and yes, that doll was
absolutely ridiculous, and the constant "let us pray" scenes were a
drag--but none of this seriously detracted from the movie (I'm calling it a
movie because on the DVD it's a continuous 3hrs).
Does it answer the question "who killed JonBenet?" No. And more importantly, it doesn't try to do so. It presents the two main theories: parents did it vs. intruder did it, and shows us how and to some extent why each of the characters supports the theory that they do. The infighting between the Boulder Police and the DA's office is brought to life (best part of the movie), Danny Shapiro's role is clarified (very muddled in the book), and we're shown exactly how the case was screwed up almost from the very beginning, by detectives that were in over their heads. Thankfully, the director also edited this down to be a tight 3hrs as opposed to Schiller's sprawling, poorly written 800pgs.
The autopsy: as fake as the doll was, the girl on the table looked real and gave you an idea of just how badly JonBenet had been tortured before being killed. DA Alex Hunter: we get to watch him go from hip, experienced, Boulder DA to a frazzled, hard-drinking, Boulder politician whose career is going up in smoke because the police department can't bring him an actual case. Steve Thomas/Danny Shapiro: this whole bizarre game between the BPD and the Globe's reporter on the scence is fascinating. Who's playing whom here? The detectives make fun of Shapiro, while Shapiro plays all sides against the middle. Scene editing: the scenes go on just long enough to give you a sense of why they're there, but not so long as to make you twiddle your thumbs in irritation. Lou Smit in the Ramsey House: a great presentation of the key points of the intruder theory. Location: the film was shot on the actual Boulder locations for the most part, giving it a boost of realism.
LowLights: Music is annoying at the beginning: all that soppy piano stuff lends an unwanted covering of daytime soap to the early part of the film. Too many closeups: if Linda Arndt's (character, not actress) face came billowing into the screen one more time, I was going to hit FF. The director finally got out of that "dramatic closeup" mode by the last 2/3, but for a while, it was too much. "Let us pray" While I appreciate that the Ramseys may be deeply religious, 5min scenes in a church listening to a 2nd rate church choir can be yawn-inducing. There are a few too many long "let us rely on our faith" scenes.
All in all, very much worth seeing.
This movie premiered through FOXTEL and my whole family had remembered
tragic event taking place. Now I have a very good memory an I must say
all honesty I cannot remember this!!!
All the actors did a great job especially Marg who delivers great scenes when Patsy is in shock etc. Outlining every little thing in this case in 4 hours was well done although i hope oneday someone will make a hollywood version of the parents doing it or an intruder.
Chilling murder ever since i watched this ive become rather drawn to this case, I cant understand how The police stuffed up so bad. I reccommend this to anyone that enjoys a good story.
This year, sad to reflect on this.
This film is convoluted and protracted, as a few other critics have mentioned. While a few good performances are presented (Ann-Margret, as Nedra, Patsy Ramsey's mother) and Marge Helgenberger as narcissistic and erratic Patsy Ramsey. Also Kris Kristoffersen is interesting, but portrays detective Lou Smit, who has sided with the Ramseys and offered no other possible explanations, and there were many.
So many people had keys to that house. A Christmas party in 1996 with over 50 people in their Colorado home.
I wanted to like this film as the case even today is intriguing and labyrinthine. But the film diverges onto sub-plots (some unnecessary, the audience knows tabloid reporters will sell their own grandmother for a headline). Ken Howard portrays the D.A., Alex Hunter and yet we do not see Harold Haddon, the defense attorney and the defense side here, and the machinations of the American legal system, the control over Bolder Police Department, and the possible obstructions to justice and obfuscations created by the defense.
By now we in the U.S. have seen many bungled and sad cases like this with "baffled" police and powerful District Attorneys, as well as corrupt defense attorneys. Sad that JonBenet herself may never see justice (the parents motives have been questionable), and new facts may not come to light.
A highly recommended book on this case is recommended: Steve Thomas wrote a few investigative theories, and also Jeffrey Scott Shapiro. Worth looking into for those interested in facts and true crime investigations. A curiosity piece as a movie, but in my opinion the audience today is more savvy and deserves some answers. 5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a 16 year old who started reading 'Perfect Murder Perfect Town' I
was excited to hear that a movie had been made (especially when Marg
was playing Patsy as CSI is my favorite show). Although I do agree that
the movie didn't really give us an insight into what Jonbenet was like,
I liked the images of her riding her bike along the sidewalk, this
shows us that under all that make-up and dresses, Jonbenet was just
like a regular 6yr old girl. I've read several articles and books on
the murder, but part of me still can't believe Patsy could kill her
daughter. To me Jonbenet was Patsy's pride and joy- she was smart,
beautiful and talented, so I question why Patsy would kill her over the
fact that Jonbenet still wet the bed. Although a lot of the evidence
point toward Jonbenet's parents. Like how Jonbenet's body was covered,
as though the killer thought she might've been cold or to hide her
innocent face, how no one in the house heard someone carry a healthy
6yr old down to the basement, how the killer knew they had enough time
to torture Jonbenet before killing her, how Jonebent was killed from
behind, showing the killer couldn't look her in the face as he or she
killed her and how s complete stranger could navigate themselves around
the complicated structure of the house and know that Patsy descended
from the back stairway.
I think this movie deserves an 8/10. And I was wondering if anyone could tell me what the song is called that is played during the opening credits.
i agree with previous comments that there were too many characters in part #1. i reported on the investigation and although i knew nearly all the players, i had trouble keeping them straight while watching. i can tell you, that at least in part #1, the portrayals of the ramseys, commander eller, det. steve thomas and d.a. alex hunter were right on. so far, the tv movie is pretty even-handed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I admit I didn't sit through the entirety of this.
I remain interested in this notorious case, and I liked the way the film captured the picture-perfect quality of Boulder at Christmastime, but I tired of the cardboard characterizations here and particularly the stereotypic histrionics of Marg Helgenbrenner as JonBenet's mother.
One particularly jarring detail was the apparent use of a mannequin to portray the dead beauty princess as she was carried prone in the arms of her father. How tacky!
Watching some of this prompted me to catch up with the case on Wikipedia. Somehow in all the hype about the case I had missed the fact that a stranger's DNA was found on the body of JonBenet, who had been sexually assaulted, garroted, and hit in the head. That stranger has yet to be identified but supposedly his DNA is still being checked weekly against crime databases. And supposedly a new investigation into the case has been opened in Colorado in recent years.
The story of JonBenet is indeed sad. To its credit, the film effectively suggests that she was living out her mother's fantasies of being a star. She also suffered from bed wetting.
Will justice ever come to JonBenet? For now her body lies in a Georgia cemetery next to that of her mother, who died 10 years later of ovarian cancer, and her half-sister, who had died at age 22 in a car crash.
True crime docu-dramas are interesting because they allow you to get
some insight into certain social conditions in a certain part of the
world. Seen from that angle, this movie offers quite a lot. The viewers
get to know the beautiful scenery of the town of Boulder, Colorado, a
place most of us may like to live in. In the movie, it serves as the
almost constantly perceptible background to a very sad story, the
murder of a little girl. There is no happy ending. The person who
committed this atrocious crime is not apprehended and very likely never
will be. The movie does not participate in the guessing game. Instead
it tries to document the tribulations of a community not used to the
widespread attention the crime is given and the ensuing pressure from
What makes this story and the movie interesting is the feeling it conveys that there seem to be serious cultural differences within the USA (which I think is little known in my part of the world). The parents of the murdered girl had moved to Boulder from the Southeast not too long before the tragedy. They brought with them a lifestyle which to the people of Boulder might have seemed unusual and strange, and this seems to have furthered suspicions against them. The parents in their turn did not seem to trust their surroundings anymore once the tragedy happened and tried to get back East into safety" immediately. One can only guess how many misunderstandings this general mistrust might have caused and how this prevented the crime from being solved.
The acting is very good, all characters are convincing, especially Deirdre Lovejoy as the young detective who is brutally left to her own devices in a very difficult and complicated situation and Sean Whalen as tabloid journalist Jeff Shapiro, a character who seems to be the screen writer's pet and offers some comic relief. The only thing that disturbed me is the title. Perfect Murder? I mean, I can understand the slightly ironic meaning of Perfect Town, but perfect murder, this indicates a criminal act someone profited from without getting punished. Who on earth should profit from the murder of a little girl?
I have read the book, "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" which is excellent;
movie, however, is terrible. The movie begins with the morning of the
kidnapping, which is the first mistake. The audience is never given a
chance to know JonBenet thus, when she is found murdered, we feel nothing
for it. We don't know the victim, not to mention the body in the film is
beyond fake. Look closely and you will see it rocking back and forth
briefly after it has been touched by a mourner.
Secondly, all the pivital information is thrown in the viewer's face all at once. People who have not read the book or followed the case will be confused. Within 3 minutes, 7 characters are introduced, either in person or by mention of their name.
Thirdly, like the lack of characterization of JonBenet, we know nothing of the family. All that we know is what we are told which is the number one mistake of story-telling...telling and not showing.
What makes the movie so bad is the fact that it could have been so good. What is so odd, is that 7 years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, I wrote a script based on the crime (I am a film major) and oddly enough, i truly believe that my version was MUCH more emotionally charged, as it should be, after all, a 6 year old girl was murdered. And ironically enough, many of the scenes that are in this film , were actually in my script. My point: this movie seems like a 14 year old wrote it.
Read the book, don't watch the movie.
I remember when this murder actually happened I was 13 years old, the memory of this case is like the memory of The sinking of the Titanic or the September 11th attacks, America never forgets. Well to the movie it is very well acted by the characters, though I wish that they would have gotten a different actress to portray JonBenet since Dyanne Iandoli who played JonBenet was limited by her real parents of what she could and couldn't do and how long she could be on set, all in all she was Dyanne Iandoli the actress was too over protected by her parents to be able to be more meaningful to the movie itself and the character, I wish they would have chosen another little girl around Jonbenet's actual age of six years old, whose parents were not so over protected on the set. The movie Overall was excellent, but it should be viewed by people who are somewhat familiar with the actual case, there is very little footage of JonBenet it is more of after the fact. I agree with other reviewers that Their should have been more insight to JonBenet Ramsey. If I was the director I would have added more footage of JonBenet, Plus maybe as an added bonus on the DVD an hour documentary with photographs and home documentaries of JonBenet as a little girl, this footage though would contain no pageant photos as I would document JonBenet as who see would want the world to see her if she was here. As a normal child whose life was taken away by some unnamed assailant who I believe is still out there somewhere. I will not name who I believe killed her due to that being up to those who are still investigating the crime. back to the Movie it does what it is supposed to do and that is portray the case in a non-judgmental way and i believe it succeeded by showing what happened as the way it actually did in a non-harmful way. Great overall movie I would though suggest those not familiar with the case to just Skip the movie for they will not understand what is going on. Also with actual morgue parts children should not view this movie period. It would not be a good picture to scare your child where they won't even sleep in their own room, I know my sister who was the same age as JonBenet, When this movie came out was so scared she slept with my parents for months thinking that what happened to JonBenet would happen to her, she was totally freaked out, I had to be the one to explain in a way she would understand that it was just it was just a movie, I did not tell her that the crime really did happen, she was already freaked out I did not want to giver her a heart attack on top of it. So in closing watch the movie with care and an opened mind and know that this movie is just a glimpse of the actual case. I give this movie 5 stars and 10 out of 10 rating excellent portraying of the JonBenet Ramsey Case.
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