Kit Steinkellner
August 25, 2014 6:01 pm

It’s been almost five years since beloved actress Brittany Murphy passed away under somewhat mysterious circumstances. It’s likely we’ll never really understand how Murphy died so young, or what troubles plagued the actress throughout her short life. (Her family has conflicting beliefs on what caused her death—unsubstantiated Internet rumors have fueled further speculation, despite the official coroner’s report.) Here’s what we know: she was a dazzling young talent and she departed this world well before her time. However, Hollywood (being Hollywood) was unable to rest on just that conclusion and Murphy’s life is now fodder for the made-for-TV movie genre.

“This is the true story of how Brittany’s Hollywood dream turned into a nightmare,” reads the tabloid-like synopsis for The Brittany Murphy Story, Lifetime’s new biopic about the star, which premieres September 6th.

In the film’s newly-released trailer, shots of Murphy (played by Last Comic Standing’s Amanda Fuller) in Clueless garb during the good times are spliced with split-second scenes that show the actress evading the press, fisting pill bottles, and lying in a hospital bed in her mother’s arms. Title cards spit out keywords/phrases like “paranoid,” “targeted,” “afraid for her life,” “the tragedy,” “the mystery,” and the whole thing ends with a paparazzo asking “What killed Brittany?” while an actor portraying Simon Monjack, her widower, tearfully replies, “You did. You all killed her.”

Does this sound emotionally manipulative? It should, because that’s absolutely how this film reads, at least in trailer form. With the exception of the music (the trailer is underscored by a gorgeous torch song cover of Haddaway’s “What Is Love”) this one-minute clip reduces the actress’ life down to paparazzi and pills. There’s such a thing as a biopic taking too microscopic a view of a life, trying to reduce a person down to the flatness of her public persona, when the goal of great storytelling should be to portray a life with all the complications and contradictions that existed within it.

Based on the trailer alone, it doesn’t seem like that kind of storytelling was Lifetime’s goal, but we could be wrong. At least they waited this long to make the movie, but it would also be awesome if the film they made isn’t manipulative as all get out. Here’s hoping that the trailer is misleading and the actual film captures the actress’ life in a way that is honest, complicated, and ultimately empathetic.

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