Jessica Biel & Melanie Lynskey star in a captivating true crime story of betrayed friendship, homicide and infidelity

Candy Montgomery (jessica biel) packs their colorful circular Tupperware with breaded meat and whipped cream jelly monstrosities. She brings a picnic pattern tablecloth to the seedy hotel where she meets her friend’s husband, Alan (Pablo Schrieber), for an affair. When she applies lipstick, she gazes at herself over oversized plastic glasses. And when she finds herself covered in the same friend’s blood (Melanie Lynsky), she holds the same chunky glasses before establishing her alibi. HiThe five-part series Candy turns out to be a thoroughly entertaining and indelible ’80s crime drama.

In a landscape filled with true-crime shows that range from the doggedly accurate to the frustratingly sensational, “Candy” carves a niche of its own. The series is unconventional, laced with dark humor, but it’s also anchored to its core by the seriousness of the crime. The real Montgomery stood trial for the murder of Betty Gore (played by Lynskey on the show) in 1980, but before that, the show imagines the couple as two oddly compelling housewives whose lives are linked in surprising ways.

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The Candy and Betty of “Candy” are like echoes of each other; They are decidedly different, but both feel trapped in their homes in one way or another. Candy, whose marriage to Pat (“veep” Actor Timothy Simons) is good-natured but unexciting, craving the kind of sexual adventures she reads about in romance novels. Betty, prone to bouts of overwhelming emotion, feels stuck and abandoned when Alan leaves her with her children. The former is popular and charming, while the latter is a confident outcast. Each distinctive element of the pair’s characterization only further intrigues as the series progresses down the path that led to the ax murder at the heart of the show.

Candy doesn’t settle for a straight-line story, instead picking up around the time of Betty’s death before jumping back in time to explain, as best he can, exactly what led up to it. The show moves through time, mostly in two and three month increments, to create a holistic portrait of two families – one mostly normal, the other tragically dysfunctional. co-creator of the series Nick Antoskawho made the show with Robin Veith (“The Expanse”), employs the same careful and intriguing narrative structure as 2019’s Munchausen-by-proxy drama.The act.

2022 shines with shows like “the dropout,” “invent Anna,” and “The girl from Plainville” to have conversations with water coolers almost weekly. The trend shows no sign of stopping, as with other stocks HBO‘s”The stairs‘ and oddly another version of Candy Montgomery’s story (HBO’s ‘love and death“) will fall soon. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak?

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Before Candy, I would have said that the most truthful depictions of real-life crime are usually the best, but the show manages to capture the imagination despite and because of its dramatic flourishes. Candy uses his two troubled and unhappy housewives to envision his own microcosm of gendered domestic chores, where men can spoil or ruin their wife’s entire day with a compliment, a favor, or a moment of neglect. Both Candy and Betty are sexually dissatisfied, leading one to an affair and the other two to a very ’80s form of marriage counseling. The show doesn’t explain its violent central storyline as a side effect of the two women’s thankless relationships, but it does present them as the water they stepped into when making crucial, sometimes horrific decisions.

Across five episodes, the show builds its compelling story without necessarily trying to explain itself much, presenting many small details — a mint, a ringing cable phone, a newspaper review of “The Shining” — as either crucial or incidental. Depending on how you tilt your head. The series also can’t help but deny its dark history with irony, a wink at all the permed hair and cord phones. As time goes on, certain elements, like Candy’s breathlessly repeated alibi and Alan and Pat’s pathetic typeiness, begin to feel inexplicably weird. But the show handles its morbid elements well, bathing the women’s bedrooms in red light and capturing the gory of their crime scene with the appropriate balance of shock and restraint.

“Candy” works mainly thanks to its well-cast leading actors and their archetypal characters. True crime shows may be a dime a dozen, but this is the only one starring Melanie Lynskey. The always-award-winning actress plays Betty as a strangely repulsive but trying woman, an outcast who seems to have no footing in the small-town Texas community or in her own home. She works as a teacher, but the students like her so much that they attack her house. She tries to nurture a child but feels offended and frustrated by his every action. More unhappy than vicious, she’s the sort of mother rarely seen on screen, and Lynskey embodies the role with nuance and care.

Biel also shines as the hyper-productive Candy who jots down thick to-do lists for extramarital affairs. She is both a daydreamer and a perfectionist who, despite her relative happiness, always pushes the boundaries of her ordinary life. She doesn’t apologize, but the show lets viewers see her hairline cracks even though she can’t see them herself. Simons and Schreiber are also the right actors for the job, as they embody the couple’s equally darkened but very different husbands. Both actors are critical to the success of the series, as tiny shifts in their attentiveness propel their wives to action in shocking ways.

Candy will air as a multi-night event on Hulu, a strategy that not only perfectly reflects the series’ extensive commitment to ’80s aesthetics, but also fits the show’s relatively modest ambitions. Unlike many of its true crime counterparts, “Candy” doesn’t seem like it wants to make general statements about violence or human nature. Even his attitudes toward marriage are deceptive, as each character’s frame of reference significantly distorts their perspective on their own relationship. No, instead the show just wants to tell a very specific story – about a strange, somewhat inexplicable crime in the ’80s – thoroughly and well. Like Candy with her infidelity checklist, she ends up making it happen. [B+]

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