‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’: The monster’s survivors have their say in Netflix doc
Initial episodes teach us nothing new but detail the predator’s crimes and their effect on the young women.
Perhaps it would have been too easy for Netflix to call this new four-part limited series documentary “Jeffrey Epstein: Monster,” but every time another survivor shares a heartbreaking story about how Epstein destroyed her life, every time we see Epstein’s smug demeanor in a 2010 deposition, every time we hear more details about the hellish swath of predatory abuse wrought by Epstein, we think of one word.
Well. Maybe there are a few colorful descriptions before we get to the word “monster.”
Streaming on Netflix beginning Wednesday
The heroes of “Filthy Rich” are the survivors such as Courtney Wild, Shawna River and Sarah Ransome, who bravely share their stories of being young and drawn into Epstein’s manipulative world, where he would promise to help them with their education and/or careers, make them feel special — until the moment when a requested massage, which was creepy and inappropriate enough as it is, would turn into something horrible and terrifying and life-scarring.
The survivors fall into one of two categories. In most cases, they were underage girls from broken homes — girls who had suffered some sort of sexual abuse trauma in their lives, girls in dire straits who were in desperate need of escaping from tough and in some cases abusive circumstances. Another victim, Michelle Licata, was by all accounts living a happy, typical life in a well-adjusted household, but after being abused by Epstein, she saw her life fall apart and to this day says she’s a completely different person than the sunny and optimistic teenager she once was.
“Before Epstein, I was something else,” she says. “The way I saw myself a long time ago was like this flower, opening up, and after, it was like somebody just picked up that flower, plucked it from its roots and stomped on it and smashed it.”
Like the docuseries “Finding Neverland” and “Surviving R. Kelly,” this four-part series focuses its attention squarely on the survivors. We share their outrage over how long the wealthy and well-connected Epstein was allowed to get away with his serial predatory actions before he finally was brought up on charges — only to strike an obscenely favorable plea deal in 2008 in which Epstein was sentenced to just 18 months in prison, was housed in a private wing in the Palm Beach County Stockade and was allowed to leave the jail for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
And yet the arrogant, narcissistic Epstein thought the sentence was far too tough. In a tape recording of an interview with journalist George Rush, he says, “My penalty was harsher, not less, than anyone who’s ever been charged with prostitution. Any girl who came to my house was coming to get money, to earn money. New York, for the same charge, it’s a $100 fine.”
Equally infuriating is how once Epstein was out, he went right back to his evil ways, using his private jet to fly underage girls to his 70-acre private island near St. Thomas in the Caribbean. A decade after Epstein was a very well-known registered sex offender, he was allegedly holding underage girls captive as recently as 2018.
One of the differences between the aforementioned documentaries about Michael Jackson and R. Kelly is the late Jackson has an army of defenders who claim he was innocent of all accusations of child abuse, and there are even some who somehow believe R. Kelly has been persecuted. Nobody in “Filthy Rich” comes to Epstein’s defense. How could they, what with the mountains of evidence against him and the 100% credible testimonies of those survivors.
Perhaps the fourth episode of “Filthy Rich” will dig deeper into Epstein’s twisted psyche and examine the deeply suspicious circumstances of his suicide in jail. But based on the three installments I saw, this is a well-made but not groundbreaking docuseries, confirming what we already knew about this monster but offering little new information.