Overview: This groundbreaking six-part documentary series THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST tracks Durst’s strange history against the backdrop of unimaginable wealth and privilege. Directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling (the Oscar nominees behind Capturing the Friedmans), it exposes long-buried information discovered during their seven-year investigation of a series of unsolved crimes, and was made with the cooperation of the man suspected of being at its center. Other episodes of THE JINX debut subsequent Sundays at the same time through March 15.
Long suspected in the notorious 1982 disappearance of his beautiful young wife, Kathie, in New York, Durst continued to raise suspicion with the unsolved 2000 murder of Susan Berman (his confidante, thought to be a key witness in the investigation into the case of Durst’s missing wife) in Beverly Hills, as well as the subsequent murder and dismemberment of neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas. Durst has consistently maintained his innocence, and remains a free man today. This unprecedented documentary event tracks Jarecki as he develops a unique relationship with Durst following the release of Jarecki’s 2010 film, All Good Things, a narrative feature about Durst’s life starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.
Expectations: There has been a lot of hype built around this documentary series. Is it worth the investment? I mean at this stage of the game it has to bring something special to the cinematic table, especially for this writer. I know crime journalism seems a hot topic all over again right now. It is even, I hear, a big seller in the podcast realm. All I know is that I have watched innumerous documentaries over the years on HBO that fit into this category. Just a few that come to mind are THE ICEMAN CHRONICLES; the PARADISE LOST trilogy and a number of AMERICA UNDERCOVER specials. Most recently, one that was reviewed here, that comes to mind is THE CHESHIRE MURDERS. So, it is a genre of film I have seen dozens of time, but this one, the story of Robert Durst, really captivates me. Just the snippets I’ve read on it and the trailer I seen seem enough to lure me into this six-part series. Somehow, I don’t think I or anyone that watches will be disappointed. Here is that trailer one more time:
Gut Reaction: I confess this review is not as timely has it could have been, but man it took me a while to sift my mind through it all, plus edit my thoughts and pare down my sentences. I could speak volumes. I know I have said that before on occasion, but this time I mean it. In short, I like everything about THE JINX and what it has to offer.
The biggest thing that blows me away about this is that the one person who is scrutinized in the film and has the most to lose by doing it is the accused criminal himself – Robert Durst (pictured). He seems to want all this criminal scrutiny dealt with once and for all, yet delivers cryptic and creepy answers in response. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
It is hard to zero in on this story because it is so huge and convoluted. The best approach is to address them one episode at a time; as I will do over the six weeks of this limited series. So the story has to start somewhere and it starts with a dismemberment murder that will truly creep you out. Linked to the crime is our man Robert Durst. The incident takes us up to his arraignment which he fails to appear at. So now, because he’s on the run, there is a manhunt. He is picked up, catch this, for stealing a hoagie from a market all the while with thousands of dollars in the trunk of his car. Bail is easily posted for him because he is a part of one of NYC’s wealthiest families. This is all amazing and gripping because you know it is not scripted; it is all truth.
In a word, incredible and so is the way this series is packaged. The director, Andrew Jarecki (pictured) uses all the tricks of the trade in criminal journalism and uses them well. He has re-enactments; crime scene photos, testimonies, officer reports, interviews with key players and a jarring, effective musical score that all draws you in. Well executed, but also so perfectly executed that it makes you wonder if the piece is manipulating its audience down a certain path.
There is only one true way to tell you how well done and gripping THE JINX is.
Bonus: Here is how to best convey it. Just watch it for yourself. You can right here as HBO has released Chapter 1 “Body In the Bay” for everyone to see. It is 43-minutes I guarantee will draw you in. To watch THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST just follow the YouTube link.
I’m not the only one excited about it. Check The Buzz.
In Conclusion: Is he innocent of the crimes told of here? Just how was he acquitted? What drives this man? How dangerous is he? What does he hope to prove by initiating this filmed documentation of it all? We know of other accusations of murder will come to light. We know he sits down for an interview. What all will be revealed? I cannot wait to find out. Can you?
Next Week: THE JINX debuts Sunday nights at 8:00pm. They repeat Monday nights so there are no other documentaries premiering or being reviewed at this time.
Next week is Chapter 2: “Poor Little Rich Boy” Debut: SUNDAY, FEB. 15 (8:00-8:40 p.m.) Other HBO playdates: Feb. 15 (11:30 p.m.), 16 (9:00 p.m.), 17 (12:50 a.m.), 19 (9:00 p.m., 2:00 a.m.), 20 (midnight) and 26 (8:15 p.m.) HBO2 playdates: Feb. 18 (10:00 p.m.), 21 (1:30 p.m.) and 22 (5:45 p.m.)
2013: Durst’s interview with Jarecki begins with his childhood, when he witnessed his mother’s suicide. His father, Seymour – distant and cold, obsessed with building the Durst Organization into a real-estate behemoth and leaving his mark on the Manhattan skyline – pressures young Robert to join the family business. Durst describes his disinterest in following in his father’s footsteps, and recalls meeting Kathie McCormack, a beautiful girl from a modest background. The couple fall in love and move to Vermont, where they lead a simple life and run a health-food store called All Good Things. But not long after, Seymour prevails and Robert returns to New York to take his place at the powerful Durst Organization.
1982: Robert and Kathie have been married for nearly ten years, during which they have moved from their idyllic life in Vermont back to New York City. They divide their time between a penthouse apartment on Riverside Drive, and an upstate house on picturesque Lake Truesdale, 50 miles north of Manhattan. After a weekend at the lake house, Durst walks into the 20th Precinct and tells desk sergeant Michael Struk that he hasn’t seen his wife in five days. He says that when he last saw her, he was putting her on a train in Katonah to return to NYC for medical school classes. The details of their last weekend together are a subject of much controversy by those who know the couple. Believing Robert knows more about Kathie’s fate than he is letting on, her family and friends embark on a hunt for the truth.