FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO WATCH CANDY, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
Hulu is back at it again with another dramatized true crime series, with Candy. Although this is one of my favorite genres, it seems as if every single week we are getting a new show with a prestige cast playing out some kind of stranger-than-fiction crime from our past… and I’m starting to feel a bit tired of it. The problem is, is that all of these series are starting to blend together and feel the same. And the biggest issue I’ve had, is that these showrunners have felt the need to stretch these stories to their limits, by making all of them run an unnecessary 7, 8, or even 10 episodes in length… when they could have been satisfyingly told in a much shorter period of time.
Luckily, with Hulu’s Candy, the showrunners have kept the length to a much more palatable 5 episodes. And instead of making you wait week after week for a new installment… The streaming giant has decided to drop a new episode daily. Because of these logistical decisions, I found Candy to be one of the more refreshing true crime limited series released so far this year. Though I still have my doubts that it will be all that memorable, moving forward.
WHAT IS CANDY ALL ABOUT?
The series follows housewife Candy Montgomery, a church-going woman who seemingly has it all in 1980s suburbia. But, looking closer, you can see that Candy is a woman at odds with the society she has been born in. She is a strong-willed and independent force-to-be-reckoned-with, who has been relegated to playing a doting housewife. Because of this, one day, she snaps… and sends her whole tight-knit community into a tailspin. Candy sets out to answer the question: Why would this seemingly perfect model of what a wife and mother should be, all of a sudden commit a heinous murder?
HOW IS JESSICA BIEL IN THE TITULAR ROLE?
I think the biggest draw for anyone going into Candy, is the presence of Jessica Biel in the lead role. The once teen-idol and rom-com starlet shed all of our preconceived notions of what she was capable of, with her daring performance in the first season of The Sinner. And she returns to incredible form here, giving Candy such gravitas and complexity. Biel is nearly unrecognizable in the role, though her beauty is still unwavering through the tightly wound curls and oversized glasses.
She is able to bring so much depth to Candy, who could have been played one note by any other actress, but Biel does not settle for that. She is at once conniving and sinister, and then intelligent and headstrong, and at times full of desperation and sadness… that you can’t help, but in one moment despise her and then in the next, feel empathy for her. One thing is for sure, you will never not, be overwhelmed with the fascination with her.
AND THE REST OF THE CAST?
The rest of the cast is also extremely strong. Melanie Lynskey, who finally got a meaty role after being relegated to the sidelines for far too long in Showtime’s Yellowjackets, also brings some real intricacy to what could have been played as a simple victim role. I love that, as an audience, we are constantly forced to ask ourselves questions about these two ladies, like which one is in the wrong? Who can we actually believe? Which one of these ladies do we feel for, or is it both of them? Or neither? The fact that our opinion is constantly changing and evolving, is a testament to these ladies’ performances.
Pablo Schreiber (who is currently starring as Master Chief on Paramount+’s Halo series) and Timothy Simons, of Veep fame, are also quite good. Though they could just be considered background fodder for Lynskey and Biel to work their magic… They become intriguing characters themselves as the series progresses. The two of them begin to add more layers to the story. They beg the question: how did these men and the role that they have played in their wives’ lives affect what went down on that fateful Friday the 13th? There is also a fun little supporting role cameo… That I would love to talk about, but Hulu has asked us to refrain from giving that away. So, you’ll have to check it out, to see for yourselves…
IS THIS A WHO-DUNNIT? OR A WHY-DUNNIT?
There are many other things to celebrate here, beyond the first-rate acting. The production and costume design is impeccable and really transports you into the 1980s. Candy feels as if it were filmed during this Era, never like it’s trying to play pretend… which adds to the effective storytelling. I also love, that even though it feels a tad basic, the way in which the story is told feels authentic, like we are getting all angles of every perspective. The way it goes back and forth in time and then back to the day of the crime… Constantly keeps the viewer on edge, as we are peeling back each layer of the crime.
Many reviews I’ve read have claimed that this is a who-dunnit. But, even if your not familiar with the crime, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go, who the culprit is. Candy, is much more of a why-dunnit. And I think the format of the time-jumping storytelling really adds a lot of weight and reasoning behind the why of it all.
IS CANDY A GRUESOME WATCH?
And lastly, I’m not sure if this is a positive or more of a disclaimer, but I have to put it out there how surprised I was by the grisly nature of the depiction of the murder. The filmmakers leave most of the brutality to the final episode, but they really go there with the violence. And even though it might lean a little on the edge of sensationalization, seeing the disturbing nature of this crime so vividly, forces the viewer to come to terms with how cruel someone must be to commit something as despicable as that. But, even so, squeamish viewers beware.
IS THIS SERIES JUST ALL TOO FAMILIAR?
My biggest problem with Candy, actually doesn’t have much to do with the work done here, at all. But, rather, the sheer nature of the story and how we have seen it all before. Take away the great performances, and what you have, is a very basic true crime story told in a blatantly familiar way. Though it asks some intriguing questions about morality, social status, mental health and more… All of this has been asked and answered many times in the past. So, by the end, when the fifth episode concluded… I was left captivated. But, also felt like what I had just spent five hours of my life watching, was a bit redundant. It all leads me to think that though Candy is worth watching for true crime buffs, it’s not going to be remembered by the time the year is up.
And that’s okay.
It’s almost like a blood-stained, revenge-filled beach read… it’s breezy and riveting while you’re in the thick of it, but the moment it’s over, you’ll forget all about it.
Candy premieres its first episode on Hulu May 9th, 2022 — with new installments coming out daily.
For more Reviews, make sure to Stay Tuned to That Hashtag Show!