Monday, December 5, 2022

Candy is another sign that it’s time to give up true crimes

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Biel plays Candy Montgomery, an ’80s housewife who brutally murders her neighbor Betty after she had an affair with her husband

Bookending each episode of candy is a disclaimer: “While this program is based on real events, certain portions have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes only and are not intended to reflect any actual person or entity.” In other words, this is a show based on the story of Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel ) is based on a ’80s Texas housewife who murdered her neighbor Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey) after she had an affair with Gore’s husband — but she’s not committed to what actually happened.

Despite this caveat, the series feels like a wasted opportunity.

A good true crime series needs something to get things moving, but Candy is stripped of any early momentum thanks to an episode-long flashback shortly after the discovery of Gore’s body. We see Gore lose her job as a teacher after a persistent approach to punishing her students went too far and she failed to mother a foster son. Both storylines aim to add layers to the women, but the odd timing and so many portrayals derail the intrigue of Montgomery’s crimes.

Biel and Lynskey are good actors, but with such superficial characters to work with, they struggle to give the women a spark. Montgomery is a cheeky perfectionist, Gore a tiresome whiner. These qualities and little more are common.

The affair that forms the backbone of the show and which we know will ultimately culminate in Gore’s murder is devoid of any danger.

That said, there’s certainly plenty to appreciate, if not outright enjoy. The episodes ooze with gorgeous detail – the costumes, sets, and interior textures are all certainly rich – but the people who occupy these spaces feel undercooked.

We’re witnessing a true crime gold rush, but the lack of ethics in recent prosecutions is hard to ignore. Netflix dahmer was seen by billions, but several victims’ families have condemned the show for taking advantage of their trauma without consultation.

It is clear that a sensitivity to this genre is required. Despite the disclaimer to the contrary candy seems to have started with the facts and worked backwards, a more ethical, less exploitative way of turning murder into entertainment (even if it makes for an uninviting TV series). I was shocked to learn a seemingly sensational detail – Gore’s body was found next to a newspaper advertisement for the upcoming film The glow — actually happened in real life.

The mental states that women like Montgomery and Gore are thrown into when denied agency could make for an intriguing miniseries. The same could be done in a courtroom, where the audience is as clueless as the jury. You don’t have to look far to find shows that carefully outline stories about tight-knit communities reeling from the trauma of a local homicide. Mare by Easttown was a masterclass and it did everything without trying to reinvent the wheel. What would Candy look like if she wasn’t trying to be so smart?

With three more episodes to watch, that seems unlikely candy the landing will get stuck. If it ends up being a complete disappointment, there’s always the upcoming series from HBO Max that tells the same story, love and deathwith Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons.

Part of the problem is that candy tries to be everything at once: a gritty true-crime series, a suspenseful courtroom drama, and a rich character study. But without committing to one of these ideas, it gets nowhere.

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