'Candy' review: Jessica Biel led series has minimal flavor or flair
Courtesy of Hulu
Between “Under the Banner of Heaven.” “The Girl from Plainville,” “The Staircase,” and now “Candy,” not to mention the countless podcasts and many other series already in the works, true crime junkies have no shortage of content. Then again, perhaps that’s the problem. Unlike “Heaven,” or “Plainville,” the former offering a stirring and thoughtful reexamination of faith and humility and the latter contextualizing a horrific tragedy, “Candy,” which is based of the true muder of Lizze Borden in a Texas suburb circa 1980, doesn’t have much to present that’s practically confounding outside of the central conflict unspooled over five belabored hours with none of the commentary or forensic examination those previous series brought to the table. Thankfully, leads Jessical Biel and Melanie Lynskey bring heft to an otherwise short-sighted narrative.
Nobody will question the premise isn’t worth delving into: that of an earnest, devout Christian do-gooder named Candy Montgomery (Biel) who snapped on a quiet afternoon and brutally murdered her friend, Betty Gore (Lynskey) after having an affair with her husband, Alan (Pablo Schreiber). This sends the small, quaint community into a frenzy and sparks debate about whether the attack was that of provocation or an insane maniac on the loose. “Candy,” created by Nick Antosca with showrunning and co-writing credit going to Robin Vieth,” tries towing the line between how much we should sympathize with Candy, showcasing an idyllic lifestyle of planning trips to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” as well as teaching bible school in the summer, but it’s an interesting angle that creates a weird balance throughout the five episode run.
“Candy” never seems to make up its mind, shifting gears between dueling perspectives that help rectify an event from episode one, but leaves others hanging in the balance. You sense this is all building towards a big trial, one that actually stirred the nation, yet it’s saved until the final episode where, at that point, there’s not much left to delve into aside from hearing Candy’s version of events which we all know are a bit, er, biased. There’s hardly any surprises or reveals save for a certain actor’s appearance which critics have been asked not to spoil. When you see it, there might be a brief moment of “Oh! I know him” before the show settles back into a formulaic rhythm.
Still, Biel, Schreiber, and Lynskey beam through their 1980 aesthetic, including wire-framed glasses, questionable bangs, and a perm. The trio manage to outshine their one-dimensional caricatures for something far more flavorful and beneficial than what’s cooked up. Betty Gore, for example, clearly has some mental trauma or repressed anxieties she’s dealing with; and Candy, well, she’s also not the most level-headed person in the room. Pitting these two actresses and their storylines against each other creates several odd conundrums. Lynskey, excellent in last year’s breakout hit “Yellowjackets,” isn’t given much to do other than stare blankly into the void while everyone abandons her.
“Candy” might have worked as an examination on motherhood, grief, and mental instability, but the series unfortunately gets too cozy in its true crime formula to actually care. In other words, those looking for something akin to Biel’s engaging “The Sinner” might need to look elsewhere for their true crime fix. Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from.
CANDY premieres on Hulu Monday, May 9th with consecutive episodes airing each night until Friday, May 13th.