Gwyneth vs Terry: The Ski Crash Trial

Gwyneth vs Terry: The Ski Crash Trial

A throwaway throwback to one of social media’s most frenzied events of 2023

5.5

TV Show

United Kingdom
English
Documentary
2023
Gwyneth Paltrow

TLDR

Not worth missing half a day’s skiing for.

What it's about

A documentary about the March 2023 civil court case revolving around a skiing collision involving retired optometrist Terry Sanderson and actor Gwyneth Paltrow, with commentary provided by lawyers, journalists, and a member of the jury.

The take

If you spent any significant time on social media this year, you won’t have been able to avoid hearing about the eight-day-long trial revolving around a ski crash in which actor and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow was involved. The trial played out via Tiktok livestreams and Twitter memes for its duration; with a reported 30 million people tuning in online, it was one of the defining and most intense social media events of 2023.

But this hour-long documentary isn’t interested in grappling with the uneasy phenomenon of live-streamed celebrity trials that has sprung up in recent years — instead, it’s designed to feed the same urge. Though it preserves some integrity by not engaging in the kind of wild speculation that raged in livestream chat boxes during the trial, it can’t disguise the fact that it wants to be fodder for exactly that. If all you want to do is relive the he-said-she-said tension of the courtroom — with the added input of legal commentators and one member of the jury — this will do just fine, but its reluctance to really engage with their contributions renders it all a bit pointless. What’s more, arriving 9 months after the original trial means such a throwaway doc might already have surpassed its shelf life.

What stands out

What stands out is really what’s left out. Not only is the doc uninterested in interrogating the grip the trial had on what seemed like the entire Internet in March 2023, but it also shies away from passing any judgment of its own on the proceedings or the results. Input from talking heads is simply presented without comment, making the doc feel like a formulaic cobbling together of material (neatly split into two sides of the story, introduced as “Act 1” and “Act 2”). For instance, an intriguing point made towards the end by Sanderson’s neuropsychologist — that photos presented by Paltrow’s lawyers of the plaintiff looking happy on post-crash travels was actually evidence that he was following her advice of getting back to normal life to accelerate his recovery, not evidence that he was lying about the severity of his condition — is glossed over. There are other moments like this when someone raises a valid question that’s then left bizarrely uninterrogated, ultimately leading this to feel like it was robotically assembled. That it took a whole 9 months to make such a superficial doc — the kind that trashy TV is able to churn out within days of an event — is a mystery of its own.

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