However, their courage alone doesn’t shape “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” into an accomplished documentary. If anything, the doc leaves them hanging, accompanying their testimonies with poor filmmaking and a lack of context or attempt to really dig into how Epstein continued what one person refers to as a “Molestation Pyramid Scheme.” This documentary barely skims the surface of its subject, alternating its energy between the legal strategies to prosecute/defend Epstein, and the aforementioned personal stories. In the end, I don’t feel like I learned anything from “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” beyond horrific details. There’s a great movie to be made that incorporates these human stories into the big picture of who enabled Epstein and how we’ve created a society that allowed a monster to essentially commit his crimes in plain sight. This isn’t quite that movie or series.
Director Lisa Bryant adopts an approach not dissimilar to “Finding Neverland” or “Surviving R. Kelly,” allowing the survivors to reclaim their narrative from the news stories that too often focus on the perpetrator instead of the survivor. For three hours, you’ll hear story after story of abject evil. These women were just children when they somehow entered the web of Epstein and his enabler Ghislaine Maxwell, who comes off here like a Renfield bringing new victims to her Count Dracula. She recruited the girls that Epstein would hire as assistants or masseuses and then rape. And Epstein and Maxwell would encourage these victims to bring in new girls, often paying them to bring classmates after school. They then bullied their victims into silence—one even asserts Maxwell basically threatened their life. There’s more than one story in “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” of sisters who were both abused by Epstein, and every one of them will break your heart. We underestimate the courage it takes to speak in front of the world about the worst day of your life.
“Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” jumps back and forth in time, often returning to depositions with Epstein, in which he asserted his Fifth Amendment rights every single time, even as prosecutors tried to get under his skin with increasingly aggravating questions—at one point they even ask about his oval-shaped penis to see if they can get any kind of response. Other than an interview with a talk radio show, these depositions are pretty much all we get of Epstein. His story is told by others, including neighbor (and producer here) James Patterson and attorney Alan Dershowitz, who never turned down an offer to be in a spotlight, even one that casts light on his dubious morals. This scattershot life story approach fills in some details about lies Epstein told early in his life, including that he graduated college, but it’s like looking at Epstein from outside his gated property.