A new two-part HBO Max series on the Clueless actor’s shocking death at 32 in 2009 is less monument to her short life than exploitation of her death
It’s telling that What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, a new docuseries on the Clueless and Girl, Interrupted actor’s confounding death in December 2009, is bookended by two overwrought sleights of hand. The two-part HBO Max series begins with the frantic 911 call by her mother, Sharon Murphy, over a recreation of the EMS trip from Murphy’s house in Hollywood Hills to Cedars Sinai medical center, where she died from a combination of pneumonia, severe anemia and several prescription and over-the-counter medications at age 32. It ends with a hammy montage of fan videos made by internet detectives – straight-to-camera, brightly lit, skeptical recaps that often double as makeup tutorials – spliced with scenes from Murphy’s films, as if her expressive face is in conversation with their fascination.
That dialogue is a ruse; for the two hours between these moments, What Happened, Brittany Murphy? takes on the role of amateur sleuth. Combing through tabloid reports, medical documents and first-hand accounts of people orbiting her death, it purports to explain Murphy’s tragic, untimely demise and, more pertinent to headlines, her abusive, constrictive marriage to Simon Monjack, who died five months after her of pneumonia.