Nobody covering the story comes off particularly well; still, a few personalities look especially bad with the benefit of hindsight, from Geraldo Rivera seeking to bully his way into interviews to Stern yukking it up — even making light of the rape allegations — on his radio show with John, who embraced and sought to profit from his place in tabloid culture, and whose transgressions didn’t end after the trials.
The coverage, however, was often questionable even in seemingly more sober venues, from network newsmagazines to Vanity Fair, which talked Lorena into posing for photos in a swimming pool as part of an interview.
Lorena is, not surprisingly, the heart and soul of the documentary, conveying the confusion of suddenly finding herself in the center ring of a media circus. That included dealing not only with the spotlight — sitting through interviews like the one shown with Steve Harvey, who coyly jokes about her actions — but pivoting to use her story as “an opportunity to bring domestic violence into the public eye,” as Kim Gandy, head of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, puts it.
Perhaps foremost, “Lorena” not only documents shifting attitudes on the subject of how victimized women are treated but the way a media feeding frenzy can distort coverage.
Armed with the benefit of perspective, Rofe has rather masterfully stitched together a dense, often tragic story with both a sense of its absurdity then, and its lingering significance now. For anyone who can’t remember much more about the case than the jokes, that’s a message worth hearing.
“Lorena” premieres Feb. 15 on Amazon.