Love and Death: the new version of an absurd crime

Candy Montgomery‘s story is absurd from start to finish. The perfect stay-at-home mother who suddenly found herself at the heart of a brutal murder shocked America in the 1980s. We’ve already talked about this scary story here in Miscelana. In 2022, the Star Plus version, Candy, with Jessica Biel in the title role, recalled the crime in detail and now it’s Max’s turn, with the Love and Death series, starring Elizabeth Olsen. Three episodes are available and they stop just when the unexplainable is about to happen. So if you haven’t read anything yet or seen Candy, here are the SPOILERS.

Candy (Elizabeth Olsen), Candace’s nickname, murdered her ‘friend’ Betty Gore (Lilly Rabe) with 41 axes when she was confronted by her about her extramarital affair with Betty’s husband, Allan Gore (Jesse Plimmons). Candy pleaded self-defense and managed to be cleared. Even today, many doubts remain about what really happened between them on the afternoon of June 13, 1980, a Friday. In general, and it’s hard to disagree with the number of cuts that disfigured Betty, there was planning and coldness on the part of Candy, who was unhappy with the end of her relationship with Allan after he decided to try to make things right with his wife. However, Love & Death surprises us in the first step, bringing empathy to Candy’s narrative.

In the first three episodes, even more than in Candy, it is extremely obvious that director Lesli Linka Glatter is playing with the forgetfulness of the case and its (until then) local projection, to give a new look to the tragedy. She admits to being surprised that the same series was in production at the same time, but she believed her version. I’ve seen both and seen the 1990s film A Killing in a Small Town, starring Barbara Hershey and the basis of the Candy series, and I’m intrigued by the storytelling of Love & Death.

The first thing that stands out is that there was no concern to turn the actors into mirrors of real people. Elizabeth Olsen and Lilly Rabe “resemble” Candy and Betty, but are – pardon the honesty – prettier. Part of the shock of the story was the obvious unattractiveness of the two women, by contemporary and current standards. In particular, the very typical 1980s look, that of having her hair permed and which was Candy’s signature, was not adopted by Elizabeth. But that’s ok, it works even more because it doesn’t distract us and keeps our attention on the real motivations of everything.

Candy and Allan lived happy marriages on the facade, but without sex at home. The physical frustration of both led them, on Candy’s initiative and planning, to start an affair just for the sexual connection, without ever threatening their marriages. Pat (Patrick Fugit) is more interested in watching TV than being with his wife and Betty, who already had an affair with another man in the past, alternated periods of deep depression with a clear marital crisis. Obviously, Allan and Candy’s plan was doomed from the start, but something happened between the two women that accelerated the tragedy. Only Candy survived to tell her side.

Jessica Biel opted for a re-enactment that is eerily similar to the real Candance, but not sympathetic to her. Elizabeth Olsen‘s sweetness, even when she is firm in her confrontations, certainly brings a new possibility of looking at crime. And look, it’s hard! After all, how can 41 axes be in self-defense? We’ll see in the next episodes.

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