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Crimes Against Suspension of Disbelief

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Wildly Exaggerated: Crimes Against Suspension of Disbelief

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crimes Against Suspension of Disbelief

Forgive me, Twitter followers, for I have sinned. I have become utterly and completely obsessed with the #hemyneumantrial, and have subjected you to weeks of endless prattling on about it, though the vast majority of you probably didn't give a crap. But now the trial is over, which means that you won't have to hear about it anymore. Unless there's an appeal. Or unless more information comes out. Or unless you keep reading this post, because I'm about to give you...

My Review of "EVERYBODY Has to Stand Up: the #hemyneumantrial" brought to you by Nyquil: the trial time sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you can snooze right through relevant testimony before deciding a man's fate medicine!
by Kimberly Welsh, Exaggeratress in Chief

February 2012 saw the beginning of one of the most gripping dramatic web series murder trials in recent memory. Hemy Neuman was being tried for the November 18, 2010 murder of Rusty Sneiderman, a shooting which took place in the parking lot of Dunwoody Day Care just after Rusty had dropped his son off for the day. In the intervening year and a half, the community at large had learned that Neuman was Sneiderman's wife's boss (draw a diagram if you need to), and that he and Mrs. Sneiderman were potentially having an affair. Now that you're caught up on the background, let's look at the trial itself...

Leaving aside necessarily poor production values and disappointingly conservative camera work, the biggest obstacle between this trial and greatness was its inconsistency. Indeed, I believe this will be held up for generations to come as an example of what happens when two conflicting production teams are left to bicker over the same project, though we must give credit where credit is due - Judge Gregory Adams' direction was a valiant attempt at fluidity and effective pacing. District Attorney James and Assistant DA Geary handled Act I ("State's Evidence") and Act III, Scene 1 ("Prosecution's Rebuttal: the Revenge") with dignity and aplomb, giving them the feel of an expertly edited documentary. I attribute this to the fact that, by and large, they took the courageous risk of using real people who were telling the truth to tell their story. The notable exception here is, of course, Andrea Sneiderman (née Greenberg and hereafter referred to as such because it irritates me to use the same name for her and the innocent victim) with her scenery-chewing Bobble-Headed Unsympathetic Confrontational Sarcasm™ approach to her role, but the DA made even this dramatic abomination fit, through a graceful and seamless mise-en-abîme, by which the very fact that she was acting paradoxically added to the realism of the other testimony. Honestly, the only other fault I find with this portion was the ham-handed advertisement for Coldwell Banker on the witness stand - highly incongruous, in an otherwise very serious scene.

But in Act II ("Defense Evidence"), viewers were subjected to a jarring shift in tone, from the world of the sober, truthful documentary to a parade of spinning pyrotechnics and flashing lasers, framing a tale of passion, 12-foot demons in the guise of 80s pop culture icons, domestic violence, globe-trotting, and the sordid story of two people who made the perverse decision to watch "The Goodbye Girl" voluntarily! At times, I wondered if this was indeed the same mini-series murder trial! At best it was confusing, and for most viewers it proved downright disorienting. In addition to the lack of continuity, a remarkably inept casting made this portion all but unwatchable! I must've heard acting teachers say it a hundred times: if you cannot actually make tears come out of your eyes, DO NOT ATTEMPT A FAKE CRY ON STAGE! And if I ever doubted the wisdom in that, there was no shortage of poorly-acted defense witness testimony to drive home its point. Meanwhile, the majority of the witnesses called to testify on behalf of the defense came across as confrontational, indignant, arrogant, and (in some applicable cases) utterly biased and unprofessional. Overall, it was a disappointing mishmash that meandered aimlessly, though I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge Dr. Marx's brilliant comic turn in Scene Two ("Cross Examination"). Well done, Dr. Marx!

What we saw in Act III was largely more of the same - gritty, believable reality from the Prosecution and an imaginatively written but poorly acted psychological thriller from the Defense. Act IV brought significantly more drama as the action mounted to its climax. The monologue of Attorney Doug Peters was difficult to watch, owing to the frustration of seeing a clearly accomplished performer with great potential so harshly constrained by the gaping holes in the plot he must advance. Thus it was ultimately District Attorney Robert James who stole what was left of the show after Andrea Greenberg's jaw-dropping performance. His speech, and his visual aids, were set to reveal the surprise ending: this was not a psychological thriller or a true-crime reality show, but an honest-to-God murder trial.

A man is dead. And all the belligerent witnesses, fanciful demons, and friendly Coldwell Banker agents in the world can't change that fact. I honestly think most of the people who watched this trial so obsessively (like me) did so because we were so appalled that anyone would expect Neuman's story to be taken seriously - that's what was funny. The death of Rusty Sneiderman wasn't funny. At all.

In his statement at sentencing, Hemy Neuman began by saying that no one had won; "everybody lost". I can certainly see where he was going with that, and there's no doubt he was standing in a room full of sad people, all of whom had lost something. But Rusty had lost more than anyone else, and there was only one thing anyone could still offer him: justice. And his family, with the help of the DA and his team, got that for him. It's a hollow victory, to be sure. But actually, Hemy: Rusty won.

So rest in peace, Rusty. And rest in peace, #hemyneumantrial hashtag. And rest in peace, this horrible, horrible story.


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At March 18, 2012 at 2:20 PM , Anonymous Jana A (@jana0926) said...

Unless... there WILL be more. I hope the #hemyneumantrial hashtag doesn't go away... My post about the trial will be up tomorrow. :)


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