Jessica Biel Takes Audiences Inside the Twisted Mind of a Cheating Wife and a Killer
From The Dropout to The Girl From Plainville Hulu has delivered a variety of female-centric true crime shows usually with a memorable actress at the forefront.
Amanda Seyfried disappeared into corrupt CEO Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout while Elle Fanning took on the portrayal of teen Michelle Carter in The Girl From Plainville. Now, Jessica Biel stars as Candy Montgomery the woman charged with the gruesome murder of Betty Gore in 1980. The shocking case that inspired Candy, the new five-part mini-series is a chilling and very real American Horror Story to this day as Candy Montgomery struck Betty Gore with an ax 41 times and was found not guilty by the jury.
The story is a haunting crime of passion as Candy engaged in an affair with Betty’s husband for 8 months before the two mutually agreed to break it off. On Friday, June 13th, 1980 Candy traveled to Betty’s house to retrieve her daughter’s swimsuit on the eerie coincidental day of Friday. Betty, according to Candy, confronted her about the affair and shortly grabbed an ax and tried to hit Candy multiple times. Candy claimed she never wanted to hurt Betty but after she shushed her when they awoke her sleeping baby it triggered a visceral and dissociative reaction from Candy due to a traumatic incident in her childhood, thus causing her to commit the heinous crime.
For such a prolific case that shocked the nation and has a haunting connection to the number 13 as mentioned the murder occurred on Friday the 13th and Mrs. Gore’s body was found 13 hours after her death, the show definitely had a lot to cover in 5 episodes.
Jessica Biel’s performance as Candy grips audiences until the story comes full circle, ending with one of the first lines of dialogue she delivers at the beginning of the pilot episode. Action movie star Pablo Schreiber also delivers a minimal but perfectly crafted performance as Allan Gore that dives deep into the psyche of cheating spouses and what motivates them to wrestle with infidelity. Melanie Lynskey’s soft and homely exterior nails Betty Gore’s depressed housewife persona and only increases the audience’s sympathy for this woman who wasn’t perfect in all regards but suffered a brutal death that was completely out of her control.
The score, by Ariel Marx, is a haunting encapsulation of the environment our characters are surrounded by that sounds both sweet and sinister simultaneously. The theme played at the beginning of each episode accompanied by animated depictions of various southern novelties such as sewing and baking illustrates the setting beautifully and subtly suggests the darkness a small town can contain.
The show had a linear story to tell but splices in different bits and pieces of time, from the first episode, chronicling the day of Betty’s murder to snippets of the trial of Candace Montgomery in later episodes. Taking place in the seemingly tight-knit community of Wylie, Texas in the early 80s, creators Nick Antosca and Robin Veith coherently understood the atmosphere of small-town southern living and its undertones in a way that many other shows haven’t acutely identified.
The cinematography particularly the establishing shots of Wylie and the close-ups of Candy going about her day after she committed the heinous murder unsettles the audience in exactly the right way. Suspense builds in each scene with some particularly having the capability to leave an audience member speechless with a story that doesn’t have many twists and turns Candy certainly captivates, even a narrative with a known and concrete ending.
This iteration of the Betty Gore murder definitely serves as an introspective look into the case and the emotions behind it. HBOMax is also currently producing Love and Death which tells the same tale with MCU star Elizabeth Olsen as Candy Montgomery.
As for Hulu’s fictionalized true come catalog, if they continue to display their shows with kind of attention in terms of casting, music, and articulation of atmosphere as Candy they’re definitely looking at a potentially extremely rewarding award season.
Hulu hasn’t received much Emmy attention since the massive success of The Handmaid’s Tale at the 69th Emmy Awards taking home the first outstanding drama series award given to a show that originated on a streaming platform. With Jessica Biel’s incredible performance, and the critical praise Candy has already received, it’s likely this show might revive Hulu’s credibility and even propel them past Netflix in the true-crime drama category.