Candy Review: Until Death Do Us Apart 

Posted 2022/05/09 3 0

What justifies the idea of murdering someone? What if it is one of your closest friends? For Candy Montgomery, a suburban housewife in Wylie, Texas, even her good friend is fair game if the reasoning is enough. Montgomery, thirty years old at the time of the incident, was married with two children when she began an affair with her best friend’s husband. One day, when the best friend’s husband is out of town, she confronted Candy with evidence of the affair, leading to the two women struggling over an ax. What ensued was a brutal rage that left the friend dead and almost unrecognizable due to the amount of damage done.

The murder of Betty Gore shocked the small Texas town that the two women lived in, especially as they knew each other through the church they regularly attended. In court, Candy Montgomery pleaded that it was an act of self-defense, that Betty had attacked her first. A surprising twist then ensued: she was found not guilty by the court. Although this verdict had mixed reactions, the cautionary tale of these two friends-turned-enemies has become an endless source of fascination for those interested in the true crime genre. Plenty of books, television, and podcasts have been dedicated to the story of these doomed friends, making this a tale that has been done over and over again in contemporary entertainment.

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A Doomed Friendship Ends in Murder

Almost forty years later, the case of Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore has been turned into a miniseries for Hulu. The show began development in July 2020 and landed a streaming platform—Hulu—by the end of that year. It was created by Nick Antosca (Brand New Cherry Flavor, Channel Zero) and Robin Veith (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). Both creators have a history of working within horror and crime, so it seems fitting that they are the duo to take on this story.

Jessica Biel portrays Candy Montgomery, while Melanie Lynskey is Betty Gore. Biel is still fresh off of the success of police drama The Sinner for NBC, but this time she is crossing over into the territory of becoming a killer. Lynskey also has had a string of recent successes: she was in 2021’s Don’t Look Up with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio and has been a recurring cast member on the drama Yellowjackets. The supporting cast of Candy consists of an unrecognizable Pablo Schreiber, Timothy Simons, and Raúl Esparza.

Candy opens with an unsettling monologue done by Biel’s Candy. “The next time you’re sad because you didn’t get what you want, you just wait.” She smirks, blankly staring at the camera. Her husband is sitting in front of her, but that is not apparent yet. “God has something even better for you.” A typeface caption declares that this is the night before. The show itself is a time capsule back into the 1980s, with its nostalgic coloring, fashion, Star Wars references, and kitchen appliances. Its imagery evokes small-town America at the peak of one of a decades-long buildup of crime.

A Glimpse Into a 1980s Patriarchal World

The camera’s gaze lingers in spaces of domesticity throughout Candy. During the first episode, it becomes clear that the female characters specifically fall into traditional gender roles. While Betty largely exists inside the home, she sews, vacuums, and sees her husband off when he leaves for a business trip. In one scene before he makes his grand exit, Betty expresses fear that she might be pregnant again. The family already has one newborn, so it seems another might be a little too much to handle shortly. She mentions that she does not want to get pregnant so that she can teach, which is a step up from being a housewife but still within the scope of traditional roles designated for women.

Candy is a stark juxtaposition to the life Betty is living. Her children are older, so she is seen out and about the town attending beauty pageants, going to church, and telling stories to the local children. While Betty seems completely isolated from the rest of the world, Candy is a social butterfly actively engaging with society. The only crack in her façade is a quick jump to a shot where she comes home covered in blood, leaving the narrative to the viewer to initially fill in the blanks of what happened. There is also another particular detail about Candy: she started her own business. In the first episode, she tells a preacher about it, but he looks down on it as a “feminine touch” even before Candy went into detail about what they do.

Before it becomes a case of whodunit and a legal drama, Candy dwells in its suspense. For the majority of the first episode, it drags out the question of where Betty is, even if the viewer is acutely aware of what happened. For such a sensational murder, the show lacks a specific sort of tension that creates an organic sense of pacing. It trips on its arc, toeing the line between a character study or being a traditional true crime show.

The first episode of the miniseries establishes this dynamic almost immediately. It painstakingly goes over the death of Betty in detail, with anchoring text informing the viewer what time it is. While it initially includes Betty in the narrative, showing as she engages with her daily life at home, she suddenly disappears, and all that is left are her husband and Candy in the story. With the muted monochromatic color palette, everything begins to look the same, the product of mundane life in Texas gone wrong.

It focuses on the killer instead of the victim, another interesting choice for the show. Betty’s story serves as the perfect foil for Candy’s, and Lynskey has the skills to pull off an impressive backstory for Betty. Outside of her being the perfect housewife for a husband always on the go, it seems disappointing that she is a means to an end not only for Candy but the story as well. The tragedy in Betty’s story is that she pretty much wanted to be what Candy was: she says she wants to teach and cannot get pregnant because of it, but due to her quieter nature, she is seen as potentially lesser. She is quote-on-quote the less acceptable housewife in this community when compared to others.

Jessica Biel’s Anchoring Performance

One of the show’s highlights is this: Jessica Biel’s Candy is unsettling, a superficial white suburban mom on the surface but a coldhearted killer underneath. As she rambles on the phone to her husband about how she missed the beauty pageant, it seems that she is running through a story, lying to everyone—including herself. If the show were to focus solely on the character study aspect of her character, perhaps it would have redeemed itself.

Candy is this woman who portrays herself to be confident, an entrepreneur, and a leader in the community. Her act slips up when she is alone herself, or in moments of great irritation or distress. That is the real Candy, not the one that is seen by the public. The character of Candy is a performance within itself, as she is fully capable of fooling the people around her. She emerges from the murder in a sequence that shows her all bloody and shaken, leaving drops of blood outside her home, and, for a second, it seems like she will be unable to hide the scope of her actions. Like the perfect suburban life she probably once sought, it is in the little moments that viewers begin to realize that life is anything but perfect for these women.

With rigid gender standards and immense expectations for mothers, the struggles manifest themselves through Betty’s sighs, the increasing wails of a child, or Candy looking infuriated as her children begin to become noisier. And perhaps that is what the heart of the show is: getting deeper into the psychological impacts of living like this as a woman. Candy’s methods of murder may not ever be justified—even if she did not get sentenced for the killing—but she is merely a product of her environment, a woman full of pressure that exploded in a moment of weakness.

An upcoming HBO Max series, titled Love and Death, is slated for a 2022 release. The miniseries will cover the same topic as Candy, but it will star Elizabeth Olsen in the titular role and Jesse Plemons as her co-star. Unsurprisingly, the case has managed to be turned into two separate television series in the span of one year, considering the world’s obsession with true crime shows as of late, as well as the fact that the Candy Montgomery case is horrifying. It is a cautionary tale of female friendship gone wrong, although Candy may questionably pass the Bechdel Test. Maybe the HBO Max interpretation and dramatization of the case will blow over better than this edition, but only time will tell.

Candy is available to stream exclusively on Hulu and will consist of five episodes total. They will be released daily until May 13, 2022.

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