Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Candy’ On Hulu, Where Jessica Biel And Melanie Lynskey Star In A Dramatization Of The Candy Montgomery Case
Forty-two years after Betty Gore was hacked to death by Candy Montgomery in Wylie, Texas, not one but two limited series based on this extraordinary case will hit our streaming boxes. The first, Candy, starring Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey, will be rolled out by Hulu over five straight days, like an old-fashioned network miniseries. Does it deserve the special treatment?
CANDY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A closeup of a woman making a speech about a tree that died to create the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The Gist: Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel) seems to have everything together; she and her husband Pat (Timothy Simons) have a solid marriage, two kids, and a nice house in suburban Texas. She’s in the church choir and teaches at the parish’s vacation bible school; the other moms are just amazed at what she can get done.
On the other hand, Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey) can barely hold it together; her 1-year-old daughter keeps crying day and night and she resents the fact that her husband Allan (Pablo Schreiber) has to keep going away on business trips. Candy and Betty’s oldest daughters are best friends, and Betty’s daughter stayed with the Montgomerys the night before June 13, 1980 — Friday the 13th.
Among her flurry of errands, Betty needs to pick up a swimsuit from Betty so Betty’s daughter can do her swim lesson. The next we see Candy, she’s in a daze, driving back to her house; her hair is wet, her glasses are off and she has a massive cut on her head. But she hits the washing machine, gets herself back together and goes about her day. She recites the story about forgetting her wallet and turning around at Target to both the women at the church and to Pat.
Meanwhile, Allan, who’s in St. Paul on his business trip, keeps calling his house and getting no answer. Increasingly worried that Betty has harmed herself and their baby. He calls Candy, who claims ignorance. Finally, late at night, he asks a group of his neighbors to break into the house to see what’s going on. No need to break in; the door is open. One of them opens the door to a small utility room and they see Betty’s blood-soaked body, at least parts of it; it’s too much for any of the men to look at in full. One of the neighbors tell Allan that Betty has been shot. But the truth is so much more violent than that.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The story of Betty Gore’s killing at the hands of Candy Montgomery has been told in a number of true-crime docuseries, like Snapped. Another series about this case, Love And Death, will debut on HBO Max later this year, with Elizabeth Olsen playing Candy Montgomery.
Our Take: Candy, created by Robin Veith (Mad Men) and Nick Antosca (The Act), Candy is first out of the gate with the story of how Montgomery killed Gore, and the creators made the interesting choice to start with the day of the killing and then reconstruct what led up to it in subsequent episodes. If you know the story, you’ll see that it adheres pretty closely to the facts of that day.
And, because the case has been in the public eye for over 40 years (Texas Monthly did a feature on it way back in 1984), Veith and Antosca don’t pretend to redirect the audience away from Candy as Betty’s killer. By starting with the day itself — but not showing the conflict that made Candy snap and hack Betty to death with an axe — they place the drama firmly in the timeframe leading up to the act and the aftermath.
You get enough glimpses of Betty and Candy, with Biel doing a fine job of putting up Candy’s facade of competence and satisfaction with her life and Lynskey doing her usual best to make Betty as dark and dysfunctional as possible, to think that Betty would be the murderous one. But, as we said, the idea behind this telling of the Montgomery case is how Candy came out of that seemingly mundane visit to Betty’s house and what led to it.
There’s the matter of an affair, born out of boredom with her life, that Candy contends with, and there is also the reasons why the seemingly put-together Candy managed to snap to begin with. Going back to reconstruct all of that will be interesting to watch, especially given the performances of Biel and Lynskey.
Sex and Skin: Candy runs through her house naked as she puts her bloody clothes in the washing machine.
Parting Shot: We pan over pools of blood, until we get to a blood-covered axe, which is the murder weapon.
Sleeper Star: Schreiber amps up the tension as the increasingly worried Allan. Given what we know about the story, we’re looking forward to seeing his intensity as Allan’s involvement with Candy is examined during the series.
Most Pilot-y Line: Simons is always great as a clueless goof, but he seems especially clueless here, especially when he says silly things to his son like “Those on the Dark Side don’t use their utensils.” (They’re going to go see The Empire Strikes Back, you see.)
Our Call: STREAM IT. Candy makes a good case that more true-crime dramas should be about the lead up and the aftermath of an event, not the event itself. After all, you can look up every detail about the case online, right?
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.