I’m always fascinated when multiple projects come out about the same real event. In this case, Elizabeth Olsen stars in “Love & Death” on Max (formerly HBO Max). She plays Candy Montgomery, who had an extramarital affair with the husband of her friend Betty. In 1980, Betty was found murdered, struck 41 times with an axe. Montgomery was accused and a high-profile trial followed.
Olsen and Lily Rabe take on the roles of Candy and Betty in Lesli Linka Glatter’s new series. Last year, Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey played the same two roles in Robin Veith’s “Candy” on Hulu. The two shows premiere 11 months apart.
As far as I can tell, there’s only been one narrative series before that’s directly depicted the case. 1990 TV movie “A Killing in a Small Town” was directed by Maggie and Jake’s father Stephen Gyllenhaal. It had a surprisingly good cast including Barbara Hershey, Brian Dennehy, and Hal Holbrook, and Hershey won an Emmy for it.
One adaptation in 40 years and then two in a year is unexpected. Why now? The true crime boom has been going on for years and years. If anything, you’d expect an adaptation of this case to arrive sooner. What’s different is the newer wave of true life con artist series – “The Dropout”, “Inventing Anna”, “Pam & Tommy”. This is also crime, but true crime as a genre usually revolves around murders. Con artist series cast a wider net.
What’s happened is you’ve seen the con artist narrative genre start to seep into true crime adaptations. These have become less about the investigation – the true crime portion – and more about the personality at the center of the case – more in line with the con artist genre. Renee Zellweger in “The Thing About Pam” and Elle Fanning in “The Girl from Plainville” are similar examples. They’re not primarily about the investigation, they’re about witnessing the person at the center of it all and how they attempt to ringmaster the circus around them.
We haven’t lost the true crime adaptations that focus on investigation, but the reinvigorated popularity of the Candy Montgomery trial doesn’t just speak to true crime obsession – it also evidences how the more recent popularity of con artist series have hybridized with true crime. It’s not as if we haven’t seen these projects before, but we are in a boom cycle for them. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ve got choice.
New series by women this week come from South Korea and the U.S., and a new movie from the U.S.
Love & Death (Max)
directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Elizabeth Olsen stars as Candy, a woman who has an affair prior to the axe murder of her friend Betty (Lily Rabe). Jesse Plemons and Krysten Ritter co-star. The series is based on a real case that took place in 1980.
Lesli Linka Glatter has directed on a huge number of shows, including “Homeland”, “The West Wing”, “The Newsroom”, “The Morning Show”, “Mad Men”, “Masters of Sex”, and “Ray Donovan”. She got her start as a dancer and choreographer. She’s the current president of the Directors Guild of America.
“Love and Death” is on Max, the recently renamed platform formerly called HBO Max. The first three episodes premiered this week, with a new one arriving every Thursday for a total of 7.
The Good Bad Mother (Netflix)
directed by Shim Na Yeon
Young Soon is a single mother and pig farmer who raises her son with strict rules. As an adult, Kang Ho resents her. He’s become a prosecutor and kept her at arm’s length. An accident means he has to return home, connecting with old friends, a former crush, and trying to patch things up with his mother.
Director Shim Na Yeon also helmed “Beyond Evil”, named best series at the Baeksang Arts Awards (South Korea’s largest TV awards ceremony) for 2021.
“The Good Bad Mother” is on Netflix. The first two episodes premiered this week. The series will follow a two-a-week release strategy with new episodes arriving Wednesday and Thursday every week for a total of 14.
Saint X (Hulu)
showrunner Leila Gerstein
A woman investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. Ruled an accident, she’s determined to uncover the truth years later.
Showrunner Leila Gerstein has written and produced on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Looking for Alaska”.
“Saint X” is on Hulu. Three episodes are out day one, with a new one every Wednesday for a total of 8.
directed by Alexis Jacknow
In this horror movie, a woman takes more and more desperate measures attempting to “fix” a biological clock everyone keeps telling her is broken. Dianna Agron stars.
This is writer-director Alexis Jacknow’s first feature film.
“Clock” is on Hulu.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
Subscribe to my Patreon! It helps with the time and resources to write more features like this one.