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Netflix's ‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich' Eye-opening, Harrowing — and Back in the News
July 7, 2020  | By Alex Strachan  | 2 comments

Do you believe in coincidences?

Just weeks after Netflix dropped the harrowing four-hour documentary series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich on a public already reeling from COVID lockdown, political division, and divisive street protests, the news that the FBI arrested UK socialite and former Jeffrey Epstein girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, on charges involving Epstein's sexual misconduct with underage girls added a strange, new chapter to the sordid Epstein saga.

Netflix has been on a run of news-breaking docuseries of late. From Tiger King — Joe Exotic nemesis and rival big cat sanctuary proprietor Carole Baskin won a dramatic court case against Exotic late last month — to the just-released Athlete A, about the scandal surrounding the 2016 UK Olympic women's gymnastics team and team doctor Larry Nasser.

Netflix's true crime documentaries have been described as both eye-opening and defensively myopic at times, which seems only natural given the potential legal minefields that lie in wait. It's one thing for a documentary series to trade in sensational material without seeming to be exploitative or sensational in its own right, quite another to coincide with actual news headlines in the real world.

Is there a connection? It's left to the viewer to judge.

Maxwell is the daughter of the late, disgraced UK media tycoon Robert Maxwell — who committed suicide shortly before discrepancies in his companies' finances were revealed, including misappropriation of his newspaper employees' pension fund. She plays a prominent role in Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, despite her repeated denials that she had anything to do with Epstein's predilection for underage girls.

Reviews were mixed, with some critics praising the way director Lisa Bryant and Paradise Lost filmmaker Joe Berlinger navigated the four-part docuseries through choppy legal waters without sensationalizing its sordid subject matter, while other reviewers found fault with the way it merely regurgitated what was already on the public record, and did little to advance the narrative.

Both are true, though, much like the book that spawned it, Filthy Rich's saving grace, and the reason to watch, is how it gives voice to the underage survivors — now grown women — of Epstein's predatory behavior.

My own take is that if you haven't seen it, it's worth a look, if only for the way it shows — in often painful, painstaking detail — how power can not only corrupt but also bend the justice system. If enough money is given, the powerful gain influence and access to those who decide which cases are prosecuted and those that are allowed to disappear.

The timing of Maxwell's arrest is eerie. It's hard not to imagine that Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich helped reopen the case by asking old questions about what happened, who benefitted, and who might have gotten away with it in the end, were it not for Berlinger and Bryant's dogged persistence.

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich was based in part on bestselling author James Patterson's 2016 book Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal That Undid Him, and All the Justice That Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein, a title so convoluted it's small wonder Netflix shortened it to just four words.

Patterson's book relied heavily on court transcripts and interviews on the public record, which some found a bit dry coming from a writer better known for page-turning paperback thrillers  — fiction, for the airport waiting area. While not a thrilling read, perhaps, Patterson's book provided able source material for a docuseries, which has the advantage of putting real faces and voices to witness testimony.

As TV, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is an at-times profound exposé about inequality, as represented by the community of Palm Beach, quite literally playground to the rich and famous, and nearby West Palm Beach, where the people who work for the rich and famous live and work.

If you considered watching Filthy Rich when it first came out and decided against it — for understandable reasons — rest assured that there's more here than an NBC Dateline episode on a Netflix budget. It's The Great Gatsby, updated for modern times and with a modern sensibility. 
Today, years after these events happened in some cases, a Netflix documentary has reopened old wounds. Maxwell's recent arrest, and the serious charges that have been filed, suggest that there may yet be hell to pay.

If you have Netflix and are looking for something more substantial than escapist fare like Money Heist and the latest Will Ferrell movie, now might be a good time to catch up on recent news headlines.

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I came to this site with the introduction of a friend around me and
I was very impressed when I found your writing. I'll come back often after bookmarking!

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Jan 27, 2023   |  Reply
Sylvia Bowe
I'm happy that Ghislaine Maxwell was captured and she can provide the rest of the information on what important people Jeffery serviced.
Jul 8, 2020   |  Reply
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