Ben Spier
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Virtually from the outset, the late John Gregory Dunne’s caustic final opus reverberates with the eerie familiarity of any number of recent sensational news stories. He sets the stage with a racially tinged murder in the heartland by two sociopathic ne’er-do-wells. In the resulting Hollywood/media frenzy, he introduces a high-wattage courtroom cast: a teen supermodel (the half sister of one defendant) bent on hijacking the trial into a fashion shoot; a philandering prosecutor married to a vociferously right-wing congresswoman; and two defense attorneys, an ”aging media bunny” and a gay, Jewish ex-prosecutor. Though he sometimes slips into easy caricature, Dunne effectively skewers shibboleths of both left and right while vividly delineating the hidden links between America’s elite and its forgotten underclass.

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