Jessica Biel is the permanent, ax-swinging housewife of hell

Candy, Hulu’s five-episode true-crime miniseries set in suburban Texas in the early 1980s asks two questions about its eponymous inspiration, Candace Montgomery. First: What prompted the Beatian housewife and vacation Bible study leader to ax to death her friend Betty Gore? And two: how the hell did she manage to convince a jury that she punched her friend 41 times in self-defense?

Jessica Biel, once the temperamental daughter of the Camdens 7th Sky and later the eponymous sinner on The fisherman, now plays another faith-conflicting character. A choir singer and Sunday school teacher, Candace Montgomery is a joyous pillar of her community, loved by children and adults alike. She’s the perfect foil for Betty Gore, a lead disciplinarian who loses her job as a schoolteacher because she can’t keep her class online without giving them all detentions. (Repeatedly.) Melanie Lynskey, peeking out from under a bowl-cut wig, plays the doomed sad sack with a mixture of bitterness and exhaustion. So why did Candy kill her?

Candy and Betty seem to seek intimacy in their marriages with devoted but disengaged men. Candy’s attempts to rekindle the flame with her devout and kind-hearted husband, Pat (Timothy Simons), continue to go up in smoke, leaving her to work out her sexual frustrations in the bathtub, at least until she finally decides. to take a lover. Betty, meanwhile, spends half her screen time begging her husband, Allan (Pablo Schreiber), to stop leaving her so often for weekend work trips. For her, the house is like a prison cell – dark and full of noises that she cannot control. (Although in this case the heckling is just…kids being kids.)

As sweet as she may seem on the outside, Candy’s sweet coating masks a noxious tangle of pent-up anger and frustrations not unlike those tormenting her friend. While Betty wears her bitterness on her sleeve, Candy hides it deep inside.

Jessica Biel replaced Elisabeth Moss as the show’s star last year, and it’s hard to imagine what the show might have looked like with the Handmaid’s Tale and shiny girls star in its center. For this production, however, Biel feels like the perfect choice to play Candace – charismatic, giddy and wild. She leads with slick smiles and undermines them with dissociative mid-range stares; her overly busy housewife persona is passionate and domestic but also athletic and fierce.

The rest of the cast packs a similar punch. Lynskey, who has had a while since yellow jackets exploded, oscillates between empathetic, pitiful and frustrating like Betty; Allan de Schreiber seems to both love and resent his wife, and Orange is the new blackThe resident of Porn’ Stache is delightfully adept at playing the stripped widower. (Come get Allan saying he doesn’t know how to change a diaper but thinks his engineering degree will help him figure it out, and stay for now he finds out what happens when you load a dishwasher with plain old dish soap.)

Simons quietly steals the show in every scene he finds himself in as Pat, a lovable dope whose intuition as a father is far sharper than his insight into his wife. And once Law and Order: SVU ADA Raul Esparza is an inspired choice to play Candy’s lawyer, Don Crowder, whom she knew from church and who, according to the series, knew Candy perhaps a little more closely than they wanted anyone in the courtroom realizes it.

Simons quietly steals the show in every scene he finds himself in as Pat, a lovable dope whose intuition as a father is far sharper than his insight into his wife.

fans of The fishermanwho saw Biel play another haunted murderer character in his first season, will recognize Candyapproach to its true crime elements. Like the American drama, the Hulu miniseries takes a “why” approach to the mystery at its heart – a useful tactic that ensures that all viewers, those who already know the details of Montgomery’s murder of Gore and those who don’t not, will meet again. plot. Creators Nick Antosca (The act) and Robin Veith (The extent) blend slow-simmering crime drama with humor that flirts with camp but never fully embraces it.

Throughout its five-episode run, however, Candy hints at the safest series – or perhaps a made-for-TV movie – that could have been. Early scenes like a steamy volleyball game filled with butt peeking and thigh-high high-fives are shot with a quiet humor that, over time, sadly gives way to more heartfelt courtroom drama. I found myself constantly wishing the series allowed itself a little more leeway — just a little more humor here, a little more idiosyncratic energy there. In the absence of real voltage, Candy tends to spin its wheels – a slightly sour note on an otherwise sweet formula.

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