‘What Happened, Brittany Murphy?’ streaming on HBO Max

Category: Television

The two-part documentary on HBO Max, What Happened, Brittany Murphy? is an interesting look at the life and career, and untimely death of the actress. At the young age of 32 this once rising star in Hollywood passed away as a result of pneumonia and anemia. How could that be?

Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN

Murphy was a talented actress and appeared in several iconic films like Girl Interrupted and Clueless. I met Brittany in 2003 when she was promoting her film Just Married with Ashton Kutcher. And we spoke again for her film Uptown Girls with Dakota Fanning. At that time I was impressed by her humor, sincerity, and pure joy of life. This was the time she was on her way up the Hollywood ladder. Everything changed in 2007 when she married Simon Monjack.

Credit: Anthony Dixon WENN

This documentary explores her career and life.  She was a headstrong, determined young girl who went after her dream, made it, excelled at it, but was brought down quickly and brutally by a conman. How do people let others control their lives? Monjack took control of Murphy with lies and drugs. She became a different person. Her body changed as she lost too much weight, and her social interactions with her friends were cut off. She was definitely under his spell.

While watching this film I did not recognize the woman she was in her final years of life. She was not the woman I had spoken with and interviewed those years earlier. And seeing the state of her house was a revelation. This mess of belongings was pitiful. How does someone get to this point?

According to the film, she was so eager to get married that she said yes to anyone. Her relationships did not last long until she met conman Monjack. She finally got her second dream of being married. But that came with a price. The price was the loss of her first dream – being an actress in big movies.

There are people who think her death was suspicious, given that her husband died several months later in the same house in the same room. Yes, they did find mold throughout the house, but according to the coroner, there was no trace of mold in her blood. So what happened in that house that led to the deaths of two people, both succumbing to pneumonia?

Simon Monjack manipulated Murphy in the same way Charles Manson manipulated his followers. There is no doubt that people who desperately look for something to complete their lives are easy prey for this kind of manipulating person. Brittany desperately wanted love and marriage. But as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Had she never met Monjack, it is my opinion Murphy would have had a good and lasting career in Hollywood. That is, if she stayed away from drugs and listened to her heart. She had a good heart. I enjoyed the times we spent together. But things changed so dramatically for this talented young woman.

What Happened, Brittany Murphy? streams on HBO Max.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, is the entertainment correspondent for Good Day Orange County, and has her own TV show, Beyond the Red Carpet, on Village Television in Orange County. She is a longstanding member of the Television Critics Association, was a longstanding member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and is accredited by the MPAA. Follow her on Twitter.